Edie just told me she is amused to look at the broken streets of Port au Prince, with concrete rubble in piles on the sidewalk and scattered debris in the gutters, and then hear me and Sienna and John Mutin say “Wow, this place looks great, they’ve really cleaned up the streets!” It’s true that the gutters are free of trash and the streets are mostly in good repair, especially the main roads. We even saw police directing traffic at a busy intersection, a first that I have seen.
We saw more kids and a few adults today in clinic, with a few memorable moments. Several of the blind children came, and of course were terrified after having their finger stuck for a hemoglobin test. It is very compelling to calm a blind child by letting them feel my hands and my stethoscope, letting them guide the stethoscope to their chest, letting them feel the otoscope and using my broken Kreyol to say “lumier” (light), “pa pe” (dont be afraid). If that does not win them over, I say “pitit fi mwen Sienna” (my daughter is Sienna) and that always wins me a big smile and they realize I must not be so bad after all.
John Mutin does the check-in of the kids, supervised by VIcky Baselski who manages the chaos, and assisted today by Emily Bruno (med student) and Emily Phipps (nurse). The children line up on chairs at the edge of the stage (a wooden platform at one side of the open courtyard). John found one boy sitting in the chair next to the “lab table” (where they do the famous fingersticks), and after he finished he told the child he could leave, to go on to the next place in line (waiting to be seen by Dr Linda or Dr Susan). The child smiled and nodded but did not leave the chair. Then Emily Bruno, who is fluent in French, had a friendly conversation with the boy, then told him he could leave and go on to the next place in line. Still the boy did not move. Finally John and Emily looked at the boy’s legs and realized at the same moment that the boy was crippled and could not walk! They felt like idiots. A common event at St VIncent’s! Edie was checking in two men who were friends, the first was in a wheelchair, pushed by the second. The first man (Samuel) spoke fluent English and also translated for his friend, to give his name and age to write on the medical card. Edie then tried to figure out what was the second man’s handicap. The medical card asks for what type of handicap: blind, deaf, WC bound (wheelchair), amputee. He had no obvious physical deformity and had been pushing Samuel around in the wheelchair quite easily. After some time in conversation, Edie finally asked Samuel, “is he deaf?”. “No,” came the response, “he is blind!”.
Dr Linda gets the double gold star award of the day, for seeing one of the older patients who always comes to see us when we are at St Vincents and has a list of complaints for which she requires multiple prescriptions. I intended to see this person myself, but with the confusion at the end of the day, she was sent to Dr Linda instead. Somehow Linda managed to see her, listen to her complaints, examine her, and reassure her that she did not need any medication! I told her she has a magic touch. John told me, don’t worry, she (the patient) will be back tomorrow!
Tonight after the usual dip in the pool and then supper, we met upstairs on a covered patio and discussed the day, while listening to the gentle rain. Suddenly Edie exclaimed and pointed to the sky, a double rainbow! An appropriate comment on a wonderful day.