One of the important things we do in our medical clinic is check hemoglobins (iron counts) on many of the patients. We try to check all the adults and any kid who is sick with fever or who looks undernourished This means just about everybody. The unfortunate soul who gets to stick everybody’s finger is John Mutin. For such a nice man and big teddy bear who loves kids, it doesn’t seem fair.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sherye was a big hit with the deaf kids and staff. I realized as I watched her that I don’t think many visitors to St Vincents can sign to the deaf. Imagine how isolating that is. It was clear that the deaf students, especially the teenagers, were thrilled to be able to communicate. Sherye was a little overwhelmed, I believe, with all the attention at first. Also the rush of clinic can be confusing, with translators trying to be everywhere at once, patients crowding the door, children running everywhere and multiple languages spoken (and signed!) I tend to get into my “zone” I call it. Focusing on the patient in front of me. Trying to use my Kreyol. Kisa m’kapab fe pou ou? What can I do for you? Depi kile ou gen pwoblem? How long have you had this problem? Gen tous? do you have cough? And so on. I find that the question of when or how long seems to be irrelevant to most Haitians. Even with a good translator, I can’t get people to tell me how many days or weeks they have had a sore throat or rash. They just repeat the complaint. Do you have cough? Yes. How long? I have cough. Yes, but how many days? You know, cough. Sherye and I got tickled after she kept asking the deaf patients these questions. She would look at me after several attempts and say, He has a cough! Yeah, I got that part…
So while I’m in my zone, I don’t pay much attention to what goes on outside the door. John Mutin, bless him, comes by frequently to remind me to drink water and to refill my water bottle. On our second day in clinic, Sherye had discovered the power of using one of the teenage girls to help her. No one can organize and boss people around like a teenage girl. Sherye enlisted the help of Blenda, a deaf girl who attached herself to Sherye very quickly. Sherye explained to Blenda that we needed patients to line up in order; each patient is given an index card with a number to make this easier and try to reduce the amount of “cutting in line”. Blenda went right to work in the crowd and soon had everyone seated, in order, waiting their turn.
Sherye was so impressed with Blenda that she kept bragging about her all day. John, however, kept asking if we could get someone else to help with bringing patients into the clinic. Finally we got Sherye and John together to sort out the problem. John explained that when he stuck Blenda’s finger for the hemoglobin test, she hollered like she was dying! Thereafter she told every kid, in the dramatic sign language she is so good at, how much that test was going to hurt! John would greet a small child with his big friendly grin, and the child would erupt into screams! Before he even touched their finger with an alcohol swab, they were terrified. After we all got a good laugh, Sherye assured John she would take care of it. Apparently Blenda got the message, because after that John’s patients were a lot more cooperative.
The next day John told me all the deaf kids came up to him and held their index finger out.