March 8, 2010

Letter from Haiti: Haitians' pride, faith amaze doctor

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Wrinkled face hard to forget

While seeing patients at a medical station that consisted of only two chairs facing each other, I met an elderly man, Jean, who complained of grangou (hunger). He moved his sweet, wrinkled face with teary eyes right close to mine as he told me about losing his daughter, who had been his caregiver, and now he had nowhere to stay.

He had traveled north in the hopes of finding something. I directed him to a line for a food ticket, but I'm not sure he ever got there.

For the remainder of the week I saw him occupying a bench in the emergency room waiting area. I sat briefly with him one day and asked how he was doing. He merely shrugged his shoulders. I could not tell if he had gotten something to eat, so I gave him a nutrition bar, which he pocketed. His face is with me still, and I wonder what has become of him and the thousands like him.

Gratitude for providing help

Beautiful Emilienne sat in front of me with her wriggling, smiling 2-month-old daughter, Judie. On Jan. 12, she had just returned home from picking up her daughter when the earthquake struck. Fortunately, she was able to run out before her house collapsed.

She was very distressed, as she had not been able to find her husband, and after three weeks she decided to make her way to Cap to be with her family. She worried about not being able to sleep and felt her breast milk had diminished greatly. I examined little Judie, and it was obvious she was in fine form and I was happy to reassure her maman.

The baby was receiving very good nourishment, but Emilienne needed to care for herself so that her baby would continue to thrive. I pointed to the area where she could meet with one of the Haitian counselors. As she left she thanked me as if I had given her the greatest gift, and it left me in awe on how rich human interaction can be.

A country that steals your heart

Six years ago, Michael Taylor, founder of Konbit Sante, asked me to work in pediatrics with Konbit Sante. He told me that Haiti would steal my heart. With every visit, that reality takes hold ever deeper and deeper. With this visit, the people of Haiti have taken over my dreams and my hopes that our little organization will persevere in being a steadfast partner in creating a better life for the people of Cap Haitien.

One last proverb, often the mantra of Konbit Sante: "Piti, piti, zwazo fe nich li" ("Little by little, the bird makes his nest").


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