by Pat Gunter
Yeah! The travel down went smoothly, and we arrived in Port-Au-Prince at dinner time on Saturday, September 23. After a quick dinner and devotions, we hit the bed early because we were being picked up for church at 6am the next morning!
Sunday morning we attended services at two of the three Haiti Outreach Ministries churches, where we were greeted warmly as new and returning visitors. Afterward, we spend a couple of hours getting oriented and setting up the clinic for the next day.
Monday, the patients were waiting for us, as always, lined up around the clinic. Some had been there since 4 or 5am. That day, we saw 100 patients and 15 dental patients, with complaints ranging from fevers to malnutrition to high blood pressure to diabetes. We gave every patient 30 days of vitamins in order to address poor nutrition, as well as worm medicine for all children over age two. Triage is hopping first thing in the morning, and as it winds down after lunch, the pharmacy becomes the hub of activity, as prescriptions from four physicians start to pile up. We did actually finish early, and since we were still full of energy and enthusiasm, we decided to ask for 120 patients for the next day, and then 150 for Wednesday. Each night, we ended with devotions and prayer, plus a little medical humor. It all provides balance to the sometimes devastating events of the day.
We may have been a little overly optimistic about the number of patients, because Wednesday turned out to be a particularly hard day. The nurses administered IV treatments for several patients with severe dehydration, and we had a number of very sick babies. We sent some of them directly to the hospital, where we hoped they would receive immediate attention.
In the meantime, Joe Bell, our dentist, got the award for Perseverance in the Face of Adversity. He did many, many manual extractions, without a working drill. That was an ongoing problem all week, which we finally addressed by renting one for him on Friday. That allowed him to complete several very difficult extractions from earlier in the week. Jami Howell got the Work Through the Pain award. She fell and fractured her wrist the first night, but since she didn’t know it was fractured until she got home, continued work in the clinic.
On Wednesday, we were also scheduled to distribute the dresses and clothing to the children in the Cite Soleil elementary school, which is part of the same campus as the clinic. That made the clinic a little short staffed, but the children loved the clothes. Some of the parents actually walked to the school the next day to express their thanks. For some of them, those are the only clothes their children have, other than their school uniform.
Thursday, we left the hotel very early to go to the elementary school in Terre Noir. We arrived in time to hear the children singing in the courtyard before school – one of the highlights of the trip. There is something inspiring and incredibly hopeful about seeing the children in their uniforms, and hearing hundreds of voices echoing hymns throughout the school and courtyard. The children ARE the hope of the future for Haiti, and seeing them reinforces why we work so hard to go and work with them. Those of us who sponsored students met with them briefly, and we delivered a number of packages from sponsors here in the states. The first-timers then toured the school and the new high school, while the rest of the team members headed to the clinic to start the day.
Friday afternoon, after the last patients, we did a complete inventory of the clinic. That information goes to the HOM clinic coordinator so she will know what has been left behind that may be of use to future visiting teams. We had seen over 600 medical patients and 75 dental patients. We felt that we had done good work and had had a positive impact on that community.
Saturday, our flight was not supposed to leave until around 5:30, so we employed the services of Jacqui Labrom, a travel agent and friend of University Presbyterian Church, to give us a short tour of Port-Au-Prince, the small museum of Haitian history, and to take us up the mountain to an overlook with a beautiful view of all of Port-Au-Prince. It was important to see more than just the inside of the clinic. It was important to see the beauty of Haiti after witnessing poverty, hunger, and desperation.
THANK YOU, Westminster, for supporting this important ministry.