Project Haiti 2015 Blog

Arrival and Saturday, February 28, 2015

We have arrived in Ayiti Cheri! The journey was remarkably smooth and I believe this can be attributed to the cohesiveness of the team. The strengths of this team were apparent to me from the very first team meeting back in October. Although we are from various disciplines, cultures, and backgrounds, we all share the same dedication to service to the people of Haiti and to each other. We arrived at HCM and received a warm welcome complete with an amazing meal and great accommodations. As soon as we finished eating, with many of us running on four to five hours of sleep, we immediately got to work unpacking and organizing supplies as well as sorting medications. Every member of the team pitched in and we were able to completely unpack and organize over 30 suitcases and duffle bags in less than 2 hours! I have very high hopes for this team and for what we will bring to the Haitian people. I am excited to see how well we work together over the next week!

Yesterday morning, we saw the sun rise from the windows of team vans and buses as we traveled from Gainesville to Fort Lauderdale to fly to Haiti. It’s quite a feat for 30 people to travel together on a complicated international trip with multiple modes of transportation and 65 pieces of luggage, but our leaders led us without pause and we arrived safely at HCM yesterday evening to a warm, home-cooked, authentic Haitian meal and great start to our trip. We all worked late into the night apportioning medications and re-arranging our mobile clinic supplies. This morning, we awoke to our first glimpse of the Caribbean sun in the form of the early morning orange glow coming over the mountains and shining on the lake that’s just down the hill from our Haitian home in Fonds Parisien. For those of us who slept out on the roof last night under a starry sky, this was a picturesque reminder of what a privilege it is to travel to Haiti and to come alongside our friends and neighbors here to bring medical care to people here who are in need. We are excited for the week ahead!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Today was one of those special days on Project Haiti when all of your plans don’t happen as you expected, but it all turns out far better than you could have hoped. In years past, we’ve had difficulty having enough medical patients on Sundays, as many of our patients were coming home from church or spending time with family and were less inclined to come to our clinics. Thus our fearless leaders had planned on having us visit a local orphanage to meet and play with the kids and to provide fluoride varnish and acute care. However, we were fortunate this year that Miss Betty (one of the founders of HCM, where we stay) has a contact at an isolated village across the lake from Fonds Parisien, near the border with the Dominican Republic. We were all excited to board small rowboats with our supplies and we made it safely across the short passage with some of the citizens of the town rowing us (we were glad /to have packed relatively lightly!). We had a great day at clinic providing medical and dental care, and it /was great fun to get to see all of our students working closely in teams with our attending physicians and Creole interpreters, getting used to the flow of the clinic and our different stations. We stayed several hours and then rowed and sailed back at sunset to a delicious dinner at HCM. We are so fortunate to have the support of our many donors for this trip, and it has been really wonderful to see the trip come together for the third time. Thank you to all of you for reading our blog and rest assured that we are safe and happy and that we are providing the best care possible to our patients here.

Today we got to practice adapting to changing plans. After getting to participate in the morning church service at the Haitian Christian Mission, we prepared for the rest of the day. The afternoon was supposed to be spent at a local orphanage caring for the children’s medical needs, applying fluoride varnish, and playing soccer in the evening. However, after hearing about a local village in need, we rearranged our schedule to care for this “remote” community. I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect after we had only heard that they were “on the other side of the lake.”
When we drove around the lake in our old retired school bus we saw a fleet of small row boats coming towards us. It turned out that these boats were coming for us. We parked the bus, loaded our bags, and all climbed aboard the locals’ boats. The Haitian men rowed us across the lake towards a large group of men, women, and children anxiously awaiting our arrival. The children all jumped into the water and swam out towards the boats to greet us and help unload the medical supplies. This was just the beginning of an incredible day of serving these people. It was not only an opportunity to benefit them, but I think we all have a new appreciation for the people of this country and our respective future careers.


Today was both heartwarming and adventurous. We visited a small village to administer medical, dental and pharmaceutical services. The villagers congregated on the shoreline, curious to see who would be visiting and what we would be bringing. As we unloaded the boat and walked to the kindergarten classroom, we were greeted with people of all ages and children who just wanted to hold our hands. Both joy and sadness filled my heart. I was saddened because I was exposed to how much poverty radiated from the area. However, I was joyous about the opportunity we had to impact the residents through our services. In addition, that fact the the children hung onto us, while smiling adorably, made me smile. Serving in the clinic was an exhilarating experience. I am a first year Pharmacy student so there is so much more for me to learn about medications. Operating underneath the Pharmacist, I was challenged to learn more and encouraged to ask questions. My most memorable moment was panoramically looking around the mobile clinic. I remember looking up and seeing all the medical students enveloped in their work. They had their stethoscopes and their medical tools performing tests to determine the ailments of the patients. I also saw the Pharmacy team intently reviewing the prescriptions and dispensing the medications needed. It was so wonderful to see the level of seriousness, the demonstration of professionalism, and the implementation of teamwork.

Monday, March 2, 2015

As the majority of the trip members left for Thomam in order to set up clinic, myself and few brave souls held down the fort at HCM. We set up a clinic for HCM locales/non-locales and saw patients throughout the morning/early afternoon. The translators, Dr. Harman and other students were spectacular in keeping the clinic running smoothly throughout. After chowing down a quick lunch, I was fortunate to work with the dental team who allowed me not only apply anesthesia, but also to pull out teeth. Due to their masterful tutelage, my inherent potential for chaos didn’t play a role in either jobs, and from a distant view, it may have looked like a did a decent job.

Overall, it was a great learning experience, but it was not simply from a clinical standpoint. You realize the necessity for people to find a source of health care. As someone who is of Haitian descent, I feel honored to have the opportunity to (try to) help these people who are in need.

We arrived at the airport on Saturday evening, and we were welcomed with smile by the HCM people. First day we crossed a lake in boats and went to a small village. Second day we went to Thoman village. In both villages, we were welcomed by adorable kids. We set up mobile clinics both days. We saw around 100 patients each day. We saw many patients with scabies, very high blood pressure, rashes, UTI, muscle pain, GERD, impetigo, and we dispensed many antibiotics, ibuprofens, acetaminophen, ACEs/ARBs, and multivitamins. It was a great learning experience. I learned a lot about different antibiotics, GERD medications, and especially to work in an interdisciplinary team. More than that, I was very glad to be part of this mission trip and having an opportunity to help people in need of health care.

Hello from Haiti! The past few days have been a blur of activity and changing plans as we help serve the medical needs of many thankful Haitian people. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to travel across the lake via Haitian rowboats to assist a village that is not frequently provided with medical care. I helped with many pediatric patients, applied fluoride varnishes, made some friends both young and old, and helped pull some teeth (in that order). Today we drove up the mountain to reach a smaller village but our bus broke down halfway there. We are realizing the value of flexibility and a positive spirit as plans have a way of quickly changing here. We still reached the village after an hour or so delay and saw 70 or so patients. I helped triage patients today and help with the flow of patients but still got to see a few kids, I always seem to find a few. This trip has been incredible so far. The people are bright, welcoming and appreciative of our service here. However, I find myself also being served in a way. I can’t quite put words to it but I have the sense we are receiving just as much, if not more, than we are providing here in Haiti.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Today our travels took us to the small town of Gallate Chambon about 45 minutes from HCM. With visions of the spent bus on our minds from the day before, we loaded old faithful with the utmost hope for a smooth journey. Of course, “smooth” it was not. The dirt and rocky roads provided a bumpy journey but a complete one as we arrived with no incident … until we parked. Before we could park at our destination, the bus driver had to maneuver the hulking vehicle through a stone gate the size of a small driveway that the average driver would shudder to attempt to drive a mini-Cooper through. The skilled bus driver gained the respect of the entire team as he backed the bus in, avoiding the walls and the well which was a few feet inside the gate. As the team unloaded the bus, we were greeted with a surprise. As a small twist our clinic was set up in a school, and we were welcomed by nearly 100 wide-eyed children. The children lined up eager for treatment, but there were no parents in sight. With our goal to provide the same quality of care as we would back home, our Creole speaking teammates set out to gather the community. Partnering with the headmaster of the school, they combed the community for family and friends alerting them that we were setting up a clinic. Shortly after, we were up and running with a line out the door of students and family members ready to be treated. As we worked through the 166 patients, we treated everything from pediatric fungal infections to adults with hypertensive emergency. OB\GYN went above and beyond educating young females on feminine hygiene and treating a variety of STDs. The dental team had a busy day as well performing oral examinations on our patients and extracting infected teeth that were causing discomfort and putting them at risk for serious complications. And so our clinic day came to a close and we packed up our belongings to head back to HCM, but not before handing out toys to the kids and making our way through the daunting exit. Our journey back was blissfully uneventful and we made it back to HCM before dark. So our evening ended with a futbol match vs the locals, delicious dinner provided by the wonderful HCM staff, and a brief talk on common skin infections and treatment presented by Dr. Carter. Today was a great day, we saw a lot of patients and most importantly took every opportunity to provide the best care we could. In doing so we created many memories with our patients, our Haitian friends, and the whole Project Haiti team.
With love from Haiti,
Lisa, Marisa, Jonathan, Ben

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It’s 5:00 am and the team is getting ready to head off on our next adventure. After some minor transportation setbacks, we hit the road on our highly anticipated ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The destination, Belavere, was 3.5 hours away from where we’re staying. Not gonna lie, the time commitment was a little daunting at first. Turns out driving for hours when you get to look out big windows at some of the most gorgeous views of your life isn’t so bad! Our early departure let us enjoy a beautiful sunrise, followed by the hustle and bustle of Port-Au-Prince before we ventured into the mountains through the Central Plateau. Every area of Haiti we’ve been to so far has a special beauty, but this was unlike anything we’d seen. Lush mountains and valleys surrounded us as the busses drove up into the mountains. Picture sunny mountains with a tropical vibe—it was perfect. The road we took from Port Au Prince up to Belavere was impressive—nicely paved, quit different than the rocky, potholed dirt roads that fill most of the country. The road was built in the past few years, and is a major step in increasing accessibility within the country. The long trip also gave us plenty of time for some extra team bonding, which is always nothing but tons of fun! When we finally arrived at our clinic spot, we were excited to begin another day of precious time with our patients, interpreters, attendings, and each other 

But let’s back up to this morning, around 5:20 AM, when I woke up on the floor to someone shouting my name and trying to wake me up. You see, shortly after rising, having a bit of coffee, and starting off our early day, I found myself unconscious, having fainted outside my room. Several of our wonderful teammates worked to evaluate me and confirm that there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with me, getting me stabilized before we got on the road. Unfortunately, the illness did not abate, and I struggled with nausea the whole way to Belavere (and believe me, it was a long journey). But I couldn’t have had better care. Our doctors ran me some medicines, our naturopathic nurse ran me some herbal oils (which were the best remedy of the day), and our HCM family kept me hydrated with fluids and encouraged me through the day. As we arrived in the city, we realized that I was not alone, as another of our teammates had fallen ill with a similar disease. The two of us tried to power through, her more successfully than I, and we alternated between trying to be of help and trying to survive the next hour. While no more fainting spells occurred, we struggled through the rest of the way, ultimately both of us crashing into bed as soon as we returned to HCM late that night. It’s amazing how helpless you feel in the midst of sickness, which reminded me of how much of a blessing it is to be able to serve patients in the midst of their disease. While we’re never sure just how much our short-term medications are able to do, this experience brought to mind that the care and attention we provide is appreciated in ways we may never know. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a whole day of clinic that occurred while I was in a bit of a haze…

Once we had completed our journey into the central plateau we found that our clinic sight for the day seemed to be tailor made for our group. The community leaders had arranged individual clinic rooms for each attending, our pharmacy, patient stations and a large triage area complete with patients lined up and ready to be seen. The clinic day started fast, as usual, and continued smoothly as our team has become a well-oiled machine at this point in the week. Students at every level of learning continued to find their voice and hone their clinical skills with diseases ranging from the acute to chronic; the common to the occasional “zebra.” Before we could stop to truly enjoy the surrounding lush country side it was time for clinic to end and our next adventure to begin.

To finish off our amazing day we visited the Partners in Health Hospital, and it was truly an amazing experience. This was one of the most impressive infrastructures that I’ve ever seen in Haiti. The building itself was beautiful, but the most amazing part was the idea behind the building and the hope that came with it. Behind the 220 beds overall (300+ beds in the next year), 18 bed NICU (which doubled the amount of NICU beds in the country), 6 ORs (which are large enough to accommodate all major surgeries), and 20 bed ER (which is staffed by the first class of Haitian EM residents) were board certified professionals who were contributing their expertise and knowledge to the Haitian people. The idea behind this is to eventually work themselves out of a job by enabling the Haitian professionals take over. I’ve never felt more hopeful for the future of Haiti, this is definitely a giant leap in the right direction.
Jonathan, Ralph, Morgan, & Pamela

Thursday, March 5, 2015

This morning we trekked through a riverbed in a semi-ancient school bus, remarkably one of the less adventurous journeys we’ve had so far. With plenty of Catch Phrase to keep us going, the trip passed in no time. We arrived at our destination which was a beautiful rural town surrounded by mountains, tropical fauna, and pet dogs. Also, cows and goats per usual. Donkeys (mules?) grazed lazily in the afternoon sun. We sweat profusely in the same sun.
When we arrived at the local church, the patients had conveniently already been assembled and ordered. We got to work quickly and took advantage of the rather large school house which allowed us to spread out. Throughout the day we treated a number of ailments including uncontrolled hypertension, infected wounds, and the sequelae of uncontrolled diabetes (bilateral eye enucleation and one-sided below the knee amputation). Despite witnessing the overwhelming effects of diseases here which are easily preventable in the US, we continue to be inspired by the tenacity, kindness, and generosity of our patients in Haiti. As per usual, many cute children stole our hearts. After a hard, sweaty day’s work we saw almost 200 patients. This was made more efficient by champion medical students like Adam Grippin who saw families of 6 at once. Weary but gratified we finished seeing our last patients and quickly packed up, trying to cross the riverbed before sundown. On the way home we were treated to a full moon rising over the mountains, and a chance to bond with our translators who had previously kept mostly to themselves. The translators are all local students who are in school for interpretation and hired by HCM to spend the whole week with us. This week has been a great opportunity for them to work on their medical English and us on our medical Kreyol! Like all of the Haitians we have worked with this week, they have been a joy to be with.
After making the successful journey home, a bountiful dinner and a new medical team were waiting for us. We finished the evening with plentiful snaps (nice things we write anonymously about each other and read to the group) and good team time.
Kimi, Michael, Michael, Anouchka