Our brief visit draws to a close. Most of us just landed in Miami, tired, excited, our heads spinning. A handful of our nurses (Hannah, Sally, Agnes, and Lyn) are staying for a second week, so they will mind the patients in the ward today and through the night. Along with Brad, Grant, Lindsey, Dr. Cheryl and the rest of our new-found Haitian and Mission of Hope friends, a smooth and coordinated hand off of our patients to team 8 is assured. At least we won’t fear for the well-being of that group of patients. They are in good hands at the Mission and will get the care they need. In fact, Dr. Glenn just told me that he gave report by phone on all the recovering cases to the oncoming Orthopedic Surgeon.
For our last full day on Friday, as with Thursday, the sun peeked over the hills across a nearly cloudless sky, and by 9 or 10 the heat was building. We had to remind ourselves to drink lots and lots of fluids, and even then, it was hard to keep up. The Team worked hard, with several very ill patients early in the day that made us a little slower than normal treating the more routine people. We had to transfer a young feverish man to a hospital over an hour away. He was most likely suffering from cerebral malaria. Another woman we sent to the local Obstetrics clinic. She was nearly due, had minimal, if any, prenatal care, and was having contractions. We were worried about her being in premature labor, complicated by severe anemia. We needed a bed for another elderly lady with congestive heart failure, whose lungs we’re half full of fluid from chronic untreated hypertension, but she wasn’t too uncomfortable sitting up in a chair, so that is where she stayed for treatment. We parked her next the bathroom after a large dose of diuretics. Thankfully, several visiting nurses from Wisconsin arrived and offered to help (I have no idea who they were but I do know they dropped in at just the right time, proverbial manna from heaven). One was kind enough to provide one-on-one care for several hours as the lady very slowly improved. Yesterday was our busiest OR day yet, and we ended the busiest operative week to date for the Mission. As a testament to the maturing capabilities at the Mission, most of the work is being referred from other hospitals in the surrounding area, including the University of Miami tent hospital in Port au Prince. Accordingly, the wards were filled with patients their families, translators, many of whom were operated on earlier in the week. One of our nurses, nurse Julie, gave her tent to one family to go away with. At least then they would have a home to take ‘home’ as they left, a shelter in which to care for their special needs child.
When Team 8 arrives, the members of the their team will need to look over as much of their work and supply areas as possible to quickly get an idea of what they have and where things are. When the doors open Monday morning, things will ramp up quickly! We are excited for them, for we know they will continue to provide much needed care. We now know, as prior teams have learned, and as future volunteers will as well, that we have received far more from the Haitians than they have from us. We know that the next team will come home wanting to go back. They will be reminded of how good it feels to bring together a large group of individuals, each with his or her own skills and gifts, for a common purpose, each one willing to focus only on the mission, the goal of helping just a few people who need our help. They will be reminded of how inspirational it is to be led by those who live their faith. And they will come home with hundreds of stories. Stories of horror and tragedy and struggle. And songs. So many songs. And they will see faith and resiliency and hope and love. In action. They will feel it and see it and smell it. And they, like us, will never forget, and will be forever grateful for being allowed to be part of this. Dr. Glenn and I were talking a few minutes ago, still trying to grasp the scale of it all. This afternoon, we drove for several hours through the streets of Port au Prince, a city of between 3 and 4 million people before January 12th, trying to make sense of whether our tiny efforts mattered.We remembered that we only saw 500 or so in the Clinic this week and only operated on about 30. Could this really amount to anything given the scale of the need? In the face of such obstacles? When what is needed is not just 21st century medical miracles eked out one at a time, but shelter, food, clean water, education, and opportunity? The answer is absolutely yes. If we do our part, and other teams do their parts, and the efforts continue, then after a year, 1500 will have had surgery, and twenty-five thousand seen, just in the Mission of Hope clinic. If 20 other missions and NGO’s do what the Mission of Hope is doing, then after a year, 30,000 Haitians will have had surgery and half a million seen in the clinics. Together, each doing a little, we will have made a difference. Now is a good time to look at the calendar, and pick a week, and join this effort. Put your gifts into action. We are grateful we have, and look forward to having others join us when we return.