Haiti's Children Mission Team -
(Report from a team member.)
This past October marked my third medical mission trip to Haiti, my second trip through Haiti’s Children Inc. We held clinic in the remote mountain village of Plen Matin and the villages of Morriseau (San Luis) and Fonn Frede near the city of Les Cayes. In 4 days of clinic we saw over 400 people with ailments ranging from ear infections and fevers, to wounds, cysts and more complex diagnosis that will require surgical or more intensive intervention. It was hard work but very rewarding.
Over the course of our 4 days in clinic we gave a total of 16,300 pills, creams, ointments and inhalers. We practiced in stifling heat, rainy conditions and even with a few chickens roaming about our feet. But the end result was not only gratifying but taught lessons that will not soon be forgotten.
Differences in healthcare vary greatly between the United States and Haiti. As a nurse practitioner in a busy clinic, I am always concerned with getting my work and charting completed on time, getting my patients in and out in a timely manner, completing insurance paperwork and generating revenue. It is easy to become absorbed in the daily work and forget how lucky we are here in the United States. Here we are blessed with healthcare that is above par and readily accessible for most. We have the supplies and resources that we need to effectively provide healthcare to our patients. We have state of the art equipment, life saving medications and facilities where we can get any service we may require.
Providing care in Haiti presents many challenges and highlights many disparities in healthcare between Haiti and the United States. There are struggles involving supplies and services needed to effectively treat patients. There is the feeling that someone always needs something from you and you may or may not be able to help. There is a feeling that you should be able to do more than you already have. For some this may be the only healthcare that they ever receive and you may not be able to “fix it all.”
However, despite these challenges, practicing in Haiti teaches invaluable lessons regarding healthcare and life. While working in Haiti I learned to utilize the available resources and think outside the box to provide care. Haiti helped me to remember why I went into healthcare, to improve patient’s lives. It helped me to remember that my role as a healthcare provider is not just another day at the office. It reminded me to think of the patient as the center of healthcare and to take the time to truly listen and to let them touch my life just as I have touched theirs. There are always patients, no matter where we work, who will touch our lives and move us in some capacity or another but far too often we forget to notice that all of our patients have the capacity to move us. The joy and gratitude expressed in the words and through the smiles on patient faces, even for the seemingly simple task of taking the time to listen, reminds you what is truly important in healthcare and makes practicing in Haiti an amazing experience.
Haiti has taught me to remember to not always want more. We have so much in our lives yet we always want more and forget what is truly important. The people of Haiti help you to remember it is not about what you own, what car you drive, what your salary is. Life is about the experiences you have, caring for one another, respecting and appreciating the people and things that make- up your daily life. A smile, a touch, a listening ear all show you care and are the human experience.
My experience in Haiti brings to mind a story I once read.
This wealthy father wanted to show his son just how fortunate they were by taking him to the country, where they stayed on a farm for a couple of days of what was supposed to be a poor family. And after they returned home the father asked the boy if he had a good time, and had he learned anything from the trip?
The boys answer was as follows: I saw that we have one dog and they had four, and we have a swimming pool that is in the middle of our yard, and they have a creek that has no end. We also have imported lanterns in our garden and they have bright stars at night time. Also our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.We have a small piece of property to live on, and they have fields that never end.Servants that serve us, but they serve each others.We go buy our food and they grow all their own.We have walls around our property to protect us and they have friends to protect them.
Needless to say the father was speechless! And the boy adds "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."
Taking these lessons home with me from Haiti has enabled me to become a better person and a better practitioner. Knowing that I have truly helped at least one person, if not many more, reminds me of why I went into healthcare. Haiti presents many challenges but the rewards far outweigh the tribulations. Life is not about what material possessions you can give but about giving yourself to help others. Haiti has helped me to remember this and has taught me lessons that I will take with me in all aspects of my life.