By Samantha Stacks
Monday we visited a village that Foundation for Peace had never been to before, Koray. This was a last minute addition to our schedule and we didn’t quite know how many people to expect. Despite this being an unexpected visit, we had a crowd awaiting us as soon as we stepped off the bus.
We quickly got our stethoscopes and other supplies ready to begin the day and dove into seeing patients. This was our 5th clinical day and we definitely had learned a thing or two along our trip. Our excellent triage team and pharmacy were working efficiently and the nurse practitioner students had learned by this point what questions were best to ask to aid in diagnosis.
There were many of the same problems we had seen in the past week such as back pain, worms, vaginal infections, staph infections, dry eyes, and dehydration but we did have a few interesting additions: a simultaneous hydrocele and testicular hernia, a prolapsed uterus, and a wound that was infected down to the bone made the list (all these cases will be referred to surgery at a nearby hospital).
I think something that struck a lot of us was how many people came in with complaints of pains or problems that had happened long ago. We would work up a patient for abdominal pain or a fever, only to find out it had been weeks or months since such a thing had occurred. It really confused and frustrated us. But I think what we sometimes forget is context. We visit villages where there are no clinics; teams from the US working with Foundation for Peace might only come every six months or so. When you live in circumstances of poverty, poverty so profound you can’t drink clean water, feed yourself nutritiously, or get access to medical care, of course you want to take advantage of services when they finally come to you. I also think a general lack of health education contributed to this. When you don’t understand the factors that led to you being sick and a medical professional is in front of you, it only makes sense that you relay every problem you’ve had because you’re not sure why it happened or if it is permanent. It was very difficult to tell people that they were healthy because it was so clear that they weren’t always that way.
Care delivered in medical trips like ours is necessary for the moment in Haiti but what is truly needed is permanent access to healthcare for all. But for now, we can only do our part and trust, as the Haitians say: piti piti na rive, little by little we will arrive.