West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Day 4 in Haiti – Face painting

We have seen about 150 patients over the past 3 days. The children are healthy, gaining weight, and almost no anemia. We have a vitamin program where every child gets a multivitamin with iron every day. The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership has supplied the vitamins and St Vincent’s has hired a pharmacy tech to supervise not only the school pharmacy but the daily vitamin program. The pharmacy tech, Madame Fortil Noel, goes to each classroom every day with enough vitamins for every child. We measure hemoglobin levels on every child that comes through the clinic. The hemoglobin level is a way to measure iron levels, in other words, anemia. 2 years ago it was common to find children with hemoglobin levels of 6 or 7 (normal is >12) and very rare to find hemoglobin levels of 11 or 12. This trip we found only 3 kids with low hemoglobin levels. Interestingly, they were all teenage girls. I asked the girls if they were getting their vitamin every day. Like teenage girls everywhere, they cant be bothered with taking vitamins (or anything else directed by adults). I scolded one girl, ” I work very hard to bring these vitamins to Haiti, you’d BETTER start taking them every day!” I am so happy to see the children healthy and happy. John Mutin even suggested to me that we might not need to check hemoglobin levels on every kid anymore since they are all normal now. What a testament to the power of the vitamin program, the power of a small idea pursued with diligence, supported by many people bringing their bottles of vitamins for us to transport to Haiti.
After we finished clinic today, we planned time for Tess Cannito to organize face painting for the children. Not only face painting, but nail polishing and coloring. Picture Dr Randy McCloy and his son, Kellar, organizing the coloring book activity. Dr Jennifer Holbourn, Ruth Lentz, Keisha Land and Asha Cooper (the latter two are our pharmacists) painted nails on boys AND girls. The kids would get their nails painted, then go outside and scratch off the polish so they could return and have them painted again. The boys lined up to get their toes painted also!
Another fun activity was decorating aprons. Tess set up pans with acrylic paint, for the children to put their hands into. Then PRESTO handprints on the canvas aprons. They are drying tonight, so we can give them as gifts to some of the adult staff tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the Feast of St Vincent, which celebrates the International Day for Handicapped Persons. We will have a “Grand Fete” with a worship service in the morning, followed by kids singing and dancing. Tess plans to organize the kids to make macrame bracelets with beads. I am looking forward to celebrating with the kids, having a fun day without working in the clinic and “sticking their fingers” for blood tests.

There were many joyous and more sad moments today, material for later blog entries. For now I will say thank you again to all of you who make this trip possible. I wake up every morning in Haiti thinking, “I can’t believe I’m in Haiti” and can go to work every day taking care of these children and staff at the school. I am starting to feel the regret of leaving, even though we are here for 2 more days.

Susan Nelson

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