I am happy to be back “home” at Lamp, after we had canceled our three most recent trips due to street protests and insecurity.
Our day started in the usual way, with our driver Anglanes arriving at my apartment with a warm smile, welcoming me back to his country. But that smile faded quickly, as he told me about “blokis” or street barricades that he had to avert to get to work. There is a massive demonstration planned for this Friday, to protest the current president and force him from office, and sometimes things start to heat up a bit in advance of the main event. Vit vit, he said as he hurried me into the van and off we went, doors locked.
On the way I chatted with Dr. Hyppolite and the nurses and our newest lab tech, Miss Blais. As we approach the outskirts of Cite Soleil, like he does every day, Dr H. hangs his stethoscope around his thick neck, and it makes both ends of the instrument sort of stick out so one has the sense that it will fall off . He wears it this way, I ‘ve come to learn, deliberately. He wants people to know that if they plan to hold up the vehicle, they may ultimately be harming themselves or people they care about if the doctor can’t get into work. Thus far, it’s been quite effective.
During my morning meeting with Dr. Hyppolite, we talk about the gangs in the area, and how their presence impacts our staff. Then we talk about medications, and he tells me how we need to deepen our reserve as the needs are growing at Lamp. “It’s a great need, Dr. Jim”. Next we discuss how he wants to take the exam for ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) as he has taken the course online because it’s not available in Haiti. He has studied it over multiple times and is sure that he can pass it, but he cannot find a way to take it, and can I help him? After telling me about his ultrasound skills that are growing, but which are still not good enough because of limited opportunity to get more training, our conversation comes back to the community, and that despite the troubles and the gangs and the ubiquitous trash and lack of electricity and poor sanitation… despite these things, he is committed to Lamp, and Lamp is committed to the zone.
As I sit down at my desk, readying for the patients, I feel that I’ve just conversed with one of the most committed doctors I’ve ever known, and I feel privileged to call him colleague and friend.
One of my first patients of the day was Lourdy, about 40 years old with a cough for the past month. She had been to see a doctor at the general hospital about one month ago, and they suggested some medication, but she hasn’t the money and could not afford to buy it. She has asthma, and we were able to give her some medication which will control her symptoms. She thanked me as she left, and wished me a good day, smiling and coughing as she did.
There were multiple patients like Lourdy, facing challenges like will I be able to eat tomorrow?, and how will I access medication? Clearly these are problems not unique to the slums of Cite Soleil, but they are indeed acute here. But what’s even more clear to me is that committed people, like you who would take the time to read this, or Dr. Hyppolite, who is living this, together play a vital role for this place. We are having a positive impact.
– Jim (via email from Haiti)