Blog post written by Dorene Palermo.
It is 9:01pm and I am the last one still awake from the team. It seems like a month since we left the hotel for the clinic this morning. Breakfast officially begins at 6am but at least two early risers were in the dining room by 5:30am… or so I am told.
The van arrived right on time and today we began to experience a little of the Port au Prince rush hour. One characteristic of it is that it does NOT rush. Driving here is a matter of inches. Wildly painted buses and trucks creating irregular columns of vehicles, motor bikes zipping through 10 inch spaces between two cars, cars stopping to let people cross the street, vans slowing to ease down into 2 feet deep holes scooped into the street. It was a welcome sight to see the gates to Cite Soliel open so the van could move into the quiet sanctuary of the walled compound.
It was 7:30am and already long lines of mothers, children, and a few men were lined up outside, sitting on the cinder block retaining walls in front of the green and white clinic. It is October and it is still in the 80’s, but when the Haitians come to the clinic they dress in their best clothes. For many women this means they must wear a hat, and hats of every season could be seen. Wool, straw, felt, fancy, simple, but all carefully placed just right on their heads. We all wore cotton scrubs, and had fans in most of the rooms in the clinic, but outside they sat with the sun streaming down and said there was no problem with the temperature.
They arrived early, paid their small fee at the window, and sat quietly and patiently, grateful for the opportunity to visit the clinic, and moving uncomplainingly up one seat at a time, getting nearer and nearer the front door.
Once through the front door, they were received by triage. Each one of our triage nurses partnered with a translator. Each person was weighed – even the tiny, tiny twins in their head to toe onesies and their also tiny mother. Temperature, blood pressure, all the normal things to start a visit.
Each doctor had two chairs outside his door – his “waiting room” – and the nurses in triage directed each family to the right doctor for them. After the first 15 or 20 minutes, the pharmacy geared up as the first patients exited the examination rooms. The nurses moved among triage, the lab, and the treatment room as needed. The non-medical team members helped in the pharmacy, assisted triage, and helped keep traffic moving in the clinic. Like a well-oiled machine, the activities never stopped. Nothing was rushed, people would smile, touch us shyly, sometimes laugh, and even reach out and say thank you. Some of the doctors said they received blessings and prayers as their patients departed. One wonderful young woman who could not talk taught me how to say “I love you” in sign language as she awaited her turn for triage. Later as she left the clinic she made her way back to where I was and gave me a shy hug.
Today we managed to find time to have some lunch, but things were running so constantly we were all surprised when, at 2:30pm, the last person in line had seen a doctor and was awaiting her prescription. Just then the children in the Cite Soliel school on the same campus as the clinic were filling the yard. Jami and Helen rushed out to the kids, bubble blower in hand, and for the next 10 minutes or so the laughing and screaming of children filled the air, jumping to reach the bubbles, shrieking when one broke on their nose, and laughing all the while.
Suddenly, we were done. No one quite believed it. We just sat around for nearly half an hour chatting, laughing, marveling at the day we had just experienced. We gathered up our things, piled in the van and headed back to the hotel. On the way I think we may have all discovered just how really tired we were. No one had taken any breaks except for lunch and things had just kept going and going and had no time to think of anything else.
I think we can all say it was a great first day. We saw about 80 patients today, and are setting a target of 110 for tomorrow since we ended early. The wifi at the hotel didn’t work when we arrived so we all sat around and talked until supper. A short devotion, a few more minutes to sort the clothes and dresses we will deliver tomorrow, and the lights started going out room by room.
This was a day the Lord has made and we all rejoiced in it. Good night.