West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Gifts and Goodbyes

Our last day at St Vincents is always full; things done and left undone as we say in our prayer of Confession. Names of patients we want to see again, to recheck blood pressures or make sure their ailments are improving. Phil carries in two kids on his shoulders who need amoxicillin for their dental infections. Teachers drop by to ask for something for headaches, for “grip” (Cold symptoms), for a pain somewhere they forgot to mention to me yesterday while they were being seen. Vickie diligently sorts thru the medical cards to find the appropriate record from earlier in the week, sometimes from the same day. Late yesterday afternoon we ran out of our 5×7 preprinted medical cards and started using slips of paper for our patient records.   
The most interesting patient we saw today was a young woman with a badly infected leg. I remember her from two years ago! She has a chronic infection and swelling covering most of her lower leg below the mid calf.  Vickie, a microbiologist, suspects a chronic fungal infection and I think she’s right. The patient has no pain from the wound.  We cleaned it and dressed it with antibiotic ointment and gave her  two shots of Rocephin. The shots were more painful than the wound itself!  While Kara, Ashley and I worked on her leg, JoJo told Sherye about Haitian voudou. Apparently the woman has an appointment this week with a Haitian voudou priest. She believes this wound happened because someone cursed her. The Haitian priest can cure her by casting out the evil spirit. JoJo told us that when we come back to Haiti next March we will see a miracle, then we will know she was cured by voudou.  Maybe so, but just in case I plan to bring some equipment to do a biopsy and culture and make a proper diagnosis. 
Phil and John went to meet Dr Samuel Prophete, a faculty member at the Dental School in Port Au Prince. Sounds like a terrific meeting; discussion of how to get St Vincents kids into the weekly dental clinics. Phil has found a tremendous amount of infections, cavities and more serious problems in the children.  I greatly appreciate his hard work in difficult circumstances bringing a service to these children they have not had since the earthquake. (2010)
My favorite part of the day was with Frenel. I have a large photo of this young boy reading Braille, in my office. One of my patients who is also blind, has heard about my work at St Vincents and gave me a set of Braille playing cards. Sitting with Frenel and Mackenson on the steps in the school courtyard, I showed Frenel the difference between the 4 of clubs and the 4 of diamonds, and so on. He quickly caught on, so I taught the two boys to play Go Fish. In Kreyol mostly. Except for the “punch line”. Mackenson kept saying Go First!
Soon after that we were invited to listen to the handbell choir.  The group of 10 players are all blind, led by Professor Simeon. They played OH SUSANNAH in my honor, and also a song about Noah’s Ark complete with animal sounds performed by a student named Geraldo. A true cut-up. 

Another gift was from Rochelle who brought her newly tuned violin to play for me.  Blessed Assurance again, I told Claire that is the hymn of this week since we also heard it on Sunday (see earlier blogpost)
As the afternoon wore on, Vickie handed out the last of the stickers and piwilis (lollipops). Jaden and Phil played soccer with some of the boys, Ashley and Brittany sang and danced with the girls, especially Maille who is in a wheelchair. Sonya had a Zentangles session with a group including Marie Carmelle, Adrian (both in wheelchairs) and Bergens (who draws with his feet). 
Finally Claire brought Dieumene to sing for us a song they practiced all week. Leonard Cohens’ Hallelujah. Mackenson and Claire played their guitars while Claire and Dieumene sang. Dieumene has a lovely, sultry voice and we were all quite moved by her performance.   
I give these details because I want to impart the rich experience we all have when working at St Vincents. After only one week we feel like these are our family. 

Saying goodbye to these dear folks is difficult. It only gets easier for me because I know I am coming back soon, in March. Claire was quite undone by the experience. I remember my first time leaving St Vincents I grieved for a month at least. 

Knowing the children will be here when I return makes it possible for me to leave. 

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