Sunday, June 26, 2011


The toughest part about leaving AMH was telling my Haitian staff, Sendhie and Edjour. They have been working for us since shortly after the earthquake and have been very loyal and trustworthy helpers.

Sendhie was my secretary and personal assistant. She handled all my patient phone calls - I got a lot of patient phone calls - and acted as the liaison between host families in the US and our patients' Haitian families. She would accompany patients to doctor's appointments, run errands, do paperwork, and hold office hours to meet with patients on days when I was out working elsewhere. When teams visited, she contacted the translators for us and worked as a translator herself. She did everything I asked: cleaning, buying water, picking up people at the airport, finding out street prices for sandals, and a lot of things I didn't ask like filling my water barrel, doing my dishes, having me over for Sunday lunch, even washing my clothes with me.

On Thursdays, when I ran the clinic at Delmas 24, Sendhie used to work beside me as my assistant. She's a bright young woman who hopes to be a doctor someday and I loved watching her learn alongside me. I always explained odd medical conditions that we might see and I would talk with her after patients left about other treatment options that were available or explain why I'd given a certain medication. She very quickly learned our standard formulas such as treatment for vaginal infections or fungal rashes and she would have the meds ready for me before I even finished examining the patient.

The funniest part was listening in while Sendhie translated for teams. Because they are a little intimidated by foreign doctors and because cultural rules dictate thus, Haitians will answer "Yes" to every question you ask them in examination. For example, if you ask "Do you have pain when you urinate?", the person will most likely say "Yes" without even thinking about the question. So I intentionally phrase my questions in a way that makes "No" the easier response. "It doesn't hurt when you pee, does it?" "You don't usually have the headaches in the morning, right?" I laugh to myself whenever I hear an American doctor ask a question and I hear Sendhie rephrase it perfectly with my technique.

Sendhie has a special place in my heart because it's hard to become friends with Haitian women my age. Most of the women I know who are in their twenties like me are single moms that I treat at clinic and in the ravine. I like them and they like me but we have more of a professional relationship. Sendhie, however, is my friend. We can talk about the things that young women talk about and we can laugh together and we can share our frustrations together. She is my best Haitian friend.

When I broke the news that I was leaving AMH, Sendhie nearly cried. And she nearly cried (or threw things at me) every time I saw her until the day I flew out. But I kept reminding her that I'm only leaving the organization. I'm not leaving Haiti. And now, I won't have to boss her around anymore. We can just be friends.

1 comment:

Mama Beth said...

A wonderful tribute to a remarkable & beautiful young woman!!