West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Day 4, Vitamins and Plaster

6 AM in Haiti, everyone asleep at the guest house except the cooks who already have coffee ready for us.  Wonderful strong Haitian coffee, with brown sugar and a little milk, or straight black as John Mutin likes it. Our first morning, the first pot was gone before John got up, much to his dismay.  The second morning, I woke up early and found John in the dining room at 5:30 already drinking his first cup.  They have little dainty cups for drinking, so John and Drew have to refill theirs three or four times just to get started….

Jennifer Holbourn is our physical therapist and Bheki Khumalo our podiatrist; both working with the many children who have club feet or other limb abnormalities.  At one point Bheki ran out of plaster.  It comes in rolls, for making casts.   Fortunately we were able to send to a local pharmacy and buy some more.  I asked the PT assistant who was helping Dr Bheki, to write down what he needed, and I gave the order to Mr Noel and asked him to order some.  I can actually talk to him in Kreyol now, which makes me happy.  Of course, he is tolerant of my terrible American accent, but we manage to make each other understood.

About an hour later, as we were breaking for lunch after the morning clinic, Mr Noel asked me if I could go with him to the pharmacy.  We drove there, only a few blocks, and presented the order to the pharmacist I met on Monday (see earlier post).  Mr Saint Felix is his name, and his English is better than my Kreyol, thank goodness.  Mr Felix thanked us for the order, and we walked out the door.  Now, you might be wondering, as I was, WHY did we have to drive to the pharmacy to bring the order, rather than call on the telephone?  WHY did I have to go with Mr Noel if all we were doing was placing an order for one box of plaster? We were already expecting an order of supplies we had placed the previous day, so WHY didn’t Mr Noel just call it in and have it delivered to the school with the rest of my order?  Good questions, but unanswerable.  Such are the mysteries of working in Haiti.

About 30 minutes after that, our supplies came by truck to the school.  Madame Noel (wife of Mr Noel) runs the pharmacy at St Vincent’s, and she had requested cod liver oil, iron vitamin drops for kids, vitamin C drops and tablets.  The cod liver oil has vitamin D, vitamin A, and other vitamin ingredients, with fish oil.  I used to wonder why Haitians need cod liver oil, because in the states we traditionally use that to treat constipation, hardly a common problem here.  Then I read the ingredients and realized what a terrific source of vitamins it is.  No wonder our grandmothers used to make us take that stuff!

 Also delivered were 100 boxes of Amoxicillin, which I had NOT ordered because the pharmacy has about 500 bottles already (apparently every American team brings amoxil to St Vincent’s).  My order of plaster produced 100 rolls, which is WAY more than we need, but I am sure Dr Beauvoir, the orthopedic surgeon who works at St Vincent’s 2 days per week, will find use for it.  The total order came to quite a large number, which I wont publish here.  Let’s just say that Ruthie Lentz, who manages our finances, will be asking me some hard questions  when I return.  HOW MUCH DID YOU SPEND ON VITAMINS AND PLASTER? I can hear her now….

St Vincent’s has a physical therapy clinic and several PT aides who work with the children. Dr Jennifer has been working with the aides, showing them different stretching exercises and also trying to make sure all the children with skeletal deformities are seen regularly by the therapist.   Last night in our dorm room problem solving session (see previous post) we talked about the frustrations/limitations of interjecting our own plans and strategies into a foreign culture, especially when we are only here for a week at a time.  I think Jenn would move down here and happily run the PT program, if her family would let her, just so she could see that the children get regular therapy and make progress.  She can see the potential for many of these kids, to relieve pain in one student with scoliosis, to strengthen the legs of another student so she could get out of her wheelchair, to encourage one girl to lift herself with her arms several times each day so she does not get pressure ulcers from sitting all day.  Easy to see the possibilities, hard to make it happen.  Today Jenn is going to tour the classrooms and make a list of some children whom she thinks need regular PT attention, and we will use that to start a discussion with Pere Sadoni about some long term strategies for those children.  Please pray that we are able to help these children, to engage in a two way conversation that moves us forward, rather than misunderstanding.  

One particular student who was seen by the nurses yesterday, lives in a wheelchair and has chronic problems with pressure ulcers on his feet and any other part of his body which rests all day in one position without moving.  He is incontinent, so that adds to the skin problems.  He is 19 years old, and we  have treated him many times for infected skin ulcers. Miraculously he always gets better with antibiotics and the scolding he gets from us to clean his skin and change the diapers regularly, wear proper shoes to protect his feet, etc.  He improves, until the next time when we return and he has sold his diapers and his new shoes in order to pay for his cell phone.   Typical teenage boy making poor choices, with disastrous consequences. 

LaShelle met Frenel yesterday, and he taught her the names of the fingers (Le pulse, Le index, Le mache, etc) as he has taught several of us before. I told her Frenel could sing, so we took turns singing for each other.  Frere Jacques is a favorite, because both the Americans and the Haitians know it.  Other familiar tunes, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, he knows with different lyrics.  I left them for a few minutes and returned to find them listening to LaShelle’s I phone.  Frenel had his head in her lap and they were happily snapping fingers and singing together.  I told LaShelle later that the best gift I could give her in Haiti was spending that time with Frenel. 

Amy tells me breakfast is ready, the pancakes are hot.  So I will sign off for now.
Susan Nelson
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