A good day at the clinic – one story

by Lamp Medical Director Barrere Hyppolite, MD

This is the story about a one year old boy named Dieujackson Bernard.  His mother, Antonine, a struggling single mother to 6 children, brought him to the clinic because he was so severely sick. From the moment I saw her I was a little bit horrified to see this child like this and I told her, “Miss, have you never been to a hospital? Have you never given him oral rehydration salts?”   Her answer was filled with sadness and guilt that she could not do more. Dieujackson was suffering from a severe case of dehydration caused by acute gastroenteritis (a bacterial infection of the intestines).

Normally, I refer this patient to a hospital for rehydration through intravenous lines. When I told her this she literally melted in tears saying, “Doctor, I can’t go because financially I can’t. I have 6 children without a father.” I felt stunned, sad, and angry because this mother was having to watch her child dying slowly in her arms. This is a situation that can be the daily struggle of some Haitian mothers.  I was angry because I felt I was in front of a situation of despair. I nearly cried – it is unacceptable!  So I reassured her saying, “Okay Miss we will proceed together and you can calm down.  You must scrupulously follow my instructions and my medical orders!  We will try to rehydrate him by mouth with oral rehydration salts.  You must completely eliminate fatty meals and give the appropriate antibiotics available at the pharmacy of our clinic. The mother replied, “Yes doctor, I will.  You can count on me!”

Every 2 days she had an appointment with me. Before the weekend I saw her again and observed that she was courageously following my recommendations. But then at the beginning of the following week, she did not come to the clinic. I felt a little bit anxious and again angry because financially she probably was having trouble reaching the clinic or something else. But on Wednesday (6 days later), she entered into my office bearing a child in the same clothes but looking totally different. I have to admit I didn’t recognize her or even the child in her arms.  She began the conversation like this, “Doctor this is Dieujackson, you understand? (in Creole “se Dieujackson wi“), the child who was nearly dying last week”.  And I was totally surprised by the radical change. I just said in Creole, “Rete mwen sezi” (I am stunned!).  I felt total joy and amazement to be a part of this miracle! She was so happy and grateful for the care, attention and patience she received at the Lamp clinic!

Dieujackson recovery

Dieujackson — recovered

A great man has said, “The greatest gift you can give to a person is the gift of attention.” After her departure with the child, my day felt really blessed and proudly I said to myself, “This is LAMP, you understand!” (in Creole “Se sa ki LAMP la wi “). Every day, from Monday to Friday, we do our best to achieve miracles or at least to give support and put a smile on a patient’s face.  This is the greatest gift we can give to our community of Cité Soleil, to our little sisters and brothers!

 

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We Remember

(by Jim Morgan — 1-12-2018)

Nou Sonje.  We remember.

Eight years ago today, an earthquake that changed so many of our lives befell Haiti.

We remember that darkest of hours, as friends and family, most of whom we had never met nor would have ever known, suffered or perished in the immediate and continued aftermath.

But the family of mankind persisted and rose to the occasion.

I remember that support, as the world sent a message of solidarity.  Along with so many others who helped care for the wounded and broken in the quake’s immediate aftermath, I remember experiencing an inexplicable, but very definite collective soul.  That solidarity strengthened us all, and that process giving inversion, where the giver becomes the receiver and the receiver becomes the giver of even more and greater good.

A collective soul exists, I am convinced.

The presence of a collective soul can’t be measured with a manometer like one uses to check blood pressure. Rather the soul’s essence needs to be felt, just as the feel of the quality of a pulse in a patient’s wrist can add valuable information to a doctor.   When its essence is actively appreciated, the collective soul fortifies, acting as an energizing force in times of strife.

The collective soul also illuminates. It shines light on our interconnectedness, on our need for community. On concepts like integrity, love and beauty.

The great thing about the collective soul is it doesn’t go away.  Ever.  It was present in Haiti eight years ago after the buildings fell, and it’s present today providing us with reassurance that concepts like compassion for our fellow man will continue to strengthen us all.

So let’s remember our friends who are gone. But so too let’s let our collective soul strengthen our own, and our world’s community.

Jim

1-12-18

Delivering water, 2010

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Anniversary of the Earthquake

On January 12, 2010 the earthquake struck that was to have such a profound impact on life in Haiti.  Haiti is a country with one major city, the capital Port-au-Prince, the home to almost all of its hospitals, universities, government buildings, and larger businesses.  The epicenter of the earthquake was near enough that Port-au-Prince was left in ruins.  More than 200,000 people were killed and more than two million were left homeless.

Reconstruction has occurred in many ways since that critical day but eight years later the country has not “recovered”.  The concept of recovery is itself unhelpful for understanding the situation.  Haiti was, before the earthquake, the most impoverished country in the hemisphere.   Then the earthquake destroyed a terrific quantity of already minimal assets.  Unlike the United States, where recovery can occur through the reallocation of existing resources, in Haiti these resources are not available.

It is true that substantial international aid was directed toward Haiti through agencies such as USAID and the Red Cross.  Money sent to smaller nonprofits (such as the Lamp!) enabled them to provide effective direct assistance but some of the larger agencies failed to utilize the money effectively.  It is also true, however, that international aid was always only one facet of the solution.  Hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses needed to rebuild their personal and commercial lives and they have been doing this, with or without assistance.

Currently, the previous “business district” of Port-au-Prince remains a no-man’s land of damaged and abandoned buildings.  But much construction has gone forward.  Hospitals and schools have been repaired and many new government buildings will soon open their doors.  Although few permanent homes for earthquake victims were ever built, new programs have assisted families to find their own housing and this has meant that the “tent cities” of displaced people have disappeared.  There is a beautiful new hospital to the north of the city.

The news, in other words, is mixed.  Haiti remains a nation of limited resources.  A new building for the Ministry of Health will not change the fact that government spending on health remains a meager $13 per person per year.

The earthquake was simply a tragedy; many Haitians are still struggling to meet basic needs and this means that our work, as concerned members of the same human family, must continue.

Former downtown district

Upper portion of Port-au-Prince today

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Message from Jim

Dear Friends –

I have been lucky enough to have met a local resident in Cité Soleil in the past few years with whom I have become friends. Alfred lives in the Bwa Nèf section, not far from the Lamp Health Center. A few years ago while living in another part of Haiti, his wife died. “Li te gen fyèv, le sa a mouri,” he recounted sadly to me one afternoon, describing the febrile illness that would take her. At the time she had no access to a doctor or medication.

Alfred is constantly smiling. He lives with this two children in a home constructed of wood cross beams, corrugated tin and rust on the outside, but love and patience and kindness on the inside.

Alfred earns a living by making wood burning stoves for cooking. He has a small workshop next to his home. If you visit, you know he’s there because you can hear the tink, tink, tink of his hammer and awl, pounding the sheets of metal from discarded barrels into rounded forms that will eventually form the finished product. I like to visit Alfred, to sit with him and chat about our families, and admire his craftsmanship. Despite his limited means, he continually and consistently shares what he has, dealing artfully with life’s challenges, and transforming others’ lives in the process.

And so it’s plain to see that sharing forms the cornerstone of this relationship, like sharing forms the cornerstone of any meaningful interaction. Sometimes sharing can be challenging to say the least. But consistent sharing, with vision and organization invariably leads to positive change. This notion is key to understanding why Lamp has been successful.

Lamp for Haiti is the result of a sharing vision in which you have decided to participate. I am guessing that your choice to continue on this journey has been edifying in ways you might not have initially expected. But because of your willful participation Alfred and thousands like him have a health center nearby where children living on the fringe of the economic fringe, are receiving quality health care.

Lamp has made great progress this past year because of an unwavering belief that when we pursue a noble goal — like providing quality healthcare for a community in dire need — and when we do so in an organized fashion with vision and commitment, positive change will invariably come. Maternal-child health, child nutrition, organized electronic records, ultrasound and x-ray. All these were thought impossible. A sharing spirit has made them a reality.

It’s good to have family with which to share at this time of year. Lamp’s efforts are reaching others effectively because of our commitment to this concept. We are helping to transform lives, and in so doing our own lives are changed too. Thanks again for being a part of this worthwhile project.

All the best to you and your own family this season and in the coming year,

James Morgan MD
Founder and Chair of the Board
jmorgan@lampforhaiti.org

We do need your continued commitment!

To make a year-end donation, click on the yellow Donate button
or send your check to Lamp for Haiti, P.O. Box 39703, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Thank You!

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Women’s Clinic is Growing!

The Women’s Health Clinic is one of the Lamp’s most valuable programs. In the past, women in this low-income community did not have an option for affordable care, so that prenatal check-ups, for example, were virtually unheard of. The majority of women also gave birth at home, in highly unhygienic conditions, due to the costs of delivery at a hospital. Complications in delivery resulted in many deaths. In Haiti, in general, 1 in 83 mothers die in childbirth (lifetime) and this number is higher in low income areas such as Cité Soleil.
The Lamp recognized immediately that services for women were a critical need, so that the Women’s Health Clinic has been a feature of the Lamp’s services since its earliest days. But the Women’s Clinic has grown dramatically over time. We expect to provide at least 450 mothers-to-be (and new mothers!) with regular check-ups in 2018.
Lamp services have also increased over time. This year we added ultrasound capability and also decided to include both delivery kits and infant kits in our regular service package. The kits have proven to be more than popular. They a great way to encourage expectant mothers to come in for regular check-ups since we only give kits to those that have come at least three times.
The area remains one of extreme poverty and many births still take place in homes, but the Lamp’s Women’s Clinic has become a well-loved community institution where women can expect to find professional care and genuine concern for their families’ health.
In 2018 we will be initiating a training program for community birth assistants, to reduce the risks of home births. Please stay tuned!

A satisfied doctor (and mom!)

An expectant mom visits the clinic

Dr. Severe examines a patient

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Canal Project Completed

A major building project was completed this quarter, namely a 150 yard drainage canal that will drain mosquito infested standing water and reduce flooding in the neighborhood adjacent to the Lamp for Haiti Health Center.  The project will have tremendous benefits for all of the families along its path.  Even more importantly, perhaps, the canal was built entirely with local labor.  As of August 30th, the Lamp has spent approximately $17,000 on labor costs alone, here in Bwa Nèf, in 2017.  This is an enormous infusion of earnings for the community.  Projects have included the canal, a “peace garden” adjacent to the clinic, and renovations of the public toilets and the main clinic building.  For a massively underemployed population, this is one of the most significant side benefits of having the Lamp health center in the midst of the community.  The dual impact of these projects mean that this is money doubly well spent.  The Lamp is building community in more ways than one.

For other stories from the latest newsletter, click here!

Early construction

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Child Nutrition Program Quadruples

In Bwa Nèf, home of the Lamp Health Center, malnutrition is a serious and ever-present threat to child health and long term development.  The Lamp’s child nutrition program provides peanut-butter based therapeutic foods and other health services to severely malnourished children aged 6 months to five years old.

In the past, severely malnourished children who came to the clinic were placed into the nutrition program by the attending doctor, and the Lamp also conducted assessments in local schools.

But this year the number of children in the program has exploded to more than four times the level of previous years.  One hundred and thirty five children were added to the program in the last six months alone.  The reason for this is simple: this year marked the first time in which the Lamp has employed Community Health Workers to visit each home in the surrounding community.  The CHWs, who make health needs assessments for each family, ended up discovering a great many children who were suffering from malnutrition.  This was heartbreaking in one sense, but worth celebrating in another because, right now, about 40 of those children are back to a healthy weight and the others are steadily putting on the pounds.

The combination of outreach, through the CHW program, and child nutrition services have resulted in an incalculable benefit to the community.

The program costs the Lamp approximately $75 per child.  If any reader would like to consider organizing a fundraiser for this program, please contact the Lamp at admin@lampforhaiti.org or call at (267) 499-0516!

Richanda at start of program

Richanda half-way through program

Receiving packets of therapeutic food

Ms Alissage, the nurse that manages the child nutrition program

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Hurricane Irma spares Haiti

It sometimes seems as though Haiti must suffer through each disaster that visits the region but in this case there is cause for celebration not sorrow. The impact of Hurricane Irma on Haiti was much less than feared. The north of Haiti experienced some violent winds but in the Port-au-Prince area, where the Lamp for Haiti Health Center is located, there was no significant damage. The Health Center was closed for a day to allow staff to prepare for the coming storm but in the end those precautions were — happily — unnecessary. The day after the hurricane passed, Friday, September 8th, the Health Center welcomed patients as always.

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The Clinic Gains an Ultrasound

As reported last year, Abington Hospital near Philadelphia contributed an ultrasound unit to the Lamp. We can now report, with utmost pleasure, that the ultrasound machine has been in full use for many months. Transporting the unit to Haiti was far from an easy task. Shipping it would have incurred a tremendous customs fee, so it was dismantled and carried over, piece by piece, in personal baggage. Happily enough, we were also able to re-assemble it on the other side! While waiting for all of the pieces to arrive, our staff took courses on advanced imaging interpretation and were able to put the unit to use the same day that it was assembled. We had often asked clients at the women’s health clinic about their satisfaction with our services and the word had always come back loud and clear: please add ultrasound! Well, the satisfaction meter has taken a terrific swing upwards. The ultrasound adds a very substantial capacity to improve care for expectant mothers and many other patients, male and female. A key tool has been added to the Lamp’s diagnostic toolbox.

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The Spring Campaign is a Success!

Our Spring Campaign this year focused on the Lamp’s services for children.  Fully one third of all of our patients are six years old or less!  The women’s health clinic is also a key part of the Lamp Health Center and this means that our doctors see a lot of very young infants as well.

Our goal for the campaign was to raise $25,000 for children’s services.  In fact, due to the generosity of many people, we easily exceeded this target.  The total raised was $26,962!  This level of health care funding will have an immediate and real impact on the lives of children in need.  We will be able to move forward with all four activities that we were hoping to fund:

  • We will be able to purchase a full range of essential medicines in special pediatric formats and doses;
  • We will hold health fairs in two local schools and provide each child in two grades with a new pair of shoes;
  • We will be able to give at least 200 expectant mothers a new infant kit – something we have not done before!
  • We have already given our staff the word to expand our child nutrition program, and will add at least 50 children to that program in the coming months.

It is a privilege to be able to pass on this great news to our staff in Haiti!  Thanks to everyone that participated!

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