West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

First Day at St Vincent’s

Thanks be to God through all of your prayers, we all arrived safely in Port au Prince, including every last suitcase!  Andrew and Shruti had a delayed flight out of Nashville, so did not land in Miami until 2:00 PM.  Our plane was scheduled to leave at 2:25 and boarding was long finished by the time they landed in Miami.   I was stalling the gate agents from closing the door before Andrew and Shruti made it from gate D60 to gate D25.  Lots of texting back and forth , RUN! I told them. I pleaded with the gate agent that my son was joining me and I could not leave Miami without him.  Poor Andrew was dripping with sweat when he ran up to the gate, since they were hauling several 50 lb suitcases full of medical supplies and food for the children at St Vincent’s.

The rest of us managed to travel First Class on American Airlines from Chicago to Miami, and were treated to a full meal, free drinks (one team member even had a Mimosa!) and amazingly comfortable seats.  Of course, those big seats apparently eat cell phones, since Sherye lost her cell phone and Brandy spent 20 minutes crawling under her seat, after we landed in Port au Prince, to retrieve her phone.

Port au Prince traffic delayed our arrival at the guest house; normally a 20 minute ride, it took us 2 and 1/2 hours.  In a hot bus.  Moving inches at a time up the street.  No complaints however, and all were thrilled to finally arrive.  The guest house is reached at the bottom of a narrow driveway with a sharp 90 deg turn at the bottom, so our bus driver did not want to navigate down the driveway.  This meant unloading all 22 suitcases, (remember they are 50 lbs each) down the hill.  Actually 21 suitcases and one guitar. And hauling them back UP the driveway this morning, to load them back onto the bus to get to the school.  There is probably a better solution, but it was not immediately obvious to us.

Today I saw about 40 patients in the medical clinic, with the help of Shruti Singh, 4th year UT medical student, and Robbie Skinner, who has finished college and is hoping to go to medical school next year.
We were able to followup on many of the patients seen by the CBU nurses two weeks ago.  The nurses had done wellness assessments on every kid at the school, which made it easy for me to focus on a smaller number of patients.  Dr Jenn (Holbourn) worked in the physical therapy clinic with Andrew Street, and also two Haitian PT students who happened to be doing a rotation at St Vincent’s.  They were very excited to learn from Dr Jenn, and their English was excellent, which was a double bonus.  One patient Dr Jenn saw was 14 months old and the mother reported he was not eating well and not growing properly.  She sent Andrew to come get me, so I could examine the child.  He had an obvious heart murmur, and signs of liver enlargement which is due to the blood backing up from the heart into the liver  I think he likely has a VSD, which is a hole in the septum or wall that divides the two ventricles.  This is a common cardiac  birth defect in children.  Fortunately, Emmanuel, one of the PT students, also works with MediShare in Port au Prince, which offers xray services and specialist care for patients.  I hope this patient will be able to see a cardiologist and have an ultrasound done to determine exactly what his heart defect is.    Whether he will be able to be treated for this problem is doubtful.

I challenged Shruti to calculate pediatric dosages for antibiotic treatment for a few of our patients; I think she is now a confirmed internist, meaning that she does not want to have to calculate those ever again! She just finished her multiple interviews for an internal medicine residency, so I think she has decided she made the right specialty choice.

Lunch was granola bars, raisins and fruit snacks; my two boys brought some summer sausage and cheddar cheese, which was very popular!  Then back to the clinic for the afternoon and we finished by about 3:30 PM
Adam got to play guitar this afternoon with Mackenson, one of the kids who lives at St Vincent’s.  Apparently House of the Rising Sun is well known even in Haiti.

Sherye was everywhere at once, interpreting for the deaf patients.  She and Dr Jenn are worried about the kids who live upstairs in the dorm, the kids who are so disabled they can’t come downstairs.  They spend most or all of their time in one room, and we are concerned about their social development and their lack of stimulation.    More discussion to follow with all the folks who care about the kids at St Vincent’s:  what is the best way to help these children.

Tonight we had another fabulous meal at the Guest House, my favorite Haitian dish, piclis, was on the menu again.  This is sort of a HOT HAITIAN COLE SLAW and I love it.  Even the peanut butter in Haiti is spicy, with a little pepper in it!  We surprised Stephen with a chocolate birthday cake, with 25 candles and the usual singing!  Nice to spend one’s birthday in Haiti, I think.  Certainly one of his more memorable birthdays, I imagine.

Tomorrow we will have clinic again; Jean Robert will bring his daughters for a checkup and we will see a young man who was quite sick with fever and headache this afternoon.  I gave him some medication and asked  him to return tomorrow morning so I can see if he is improving.

Some of the team managed to watch the Grizzlies game last night at the guest house…between all of them we have multiple I phones, laptops, I pads, etc.  I am typing this blog entry on Stephen’s laptop.  Definitely more high tech than I am used to.  The WiFi connection works much better than the guest house computer, which is a plus.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.  It is exhausting and thrilling to be here, and always reminds me of how much more there is to do for these children

Susan Nelson
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