Working in the pharmacy at St. Vincent’s School was very hard, but very rewarding work. The most common prescriptions we filled were for basic, over-the-counter drugs like tylenol, antacids and multi-vitamins. In this country, we take modern conveniences like pain killers for granted; but most people in Haiti do not have access to them, or cannot afford them. Once the clinic opened, there was no down-time, as patients were lined up at the pharmacy all day. For many patients, their visit to the free clinic at St. Vincent’s may be the only opportunity they will have to see a doctor for a long time. Therefore, many patients required several prescriptions. The most challenging part of working in the pharmacy was, by far, communicating with the patients and making sure that they understood the instructions for taking their medications. Many people in Haiti are illiterate, so it is very important that they understand what you are saying. As a novice creole-speaker, it took me a while to master such phrases as “un tikwiye du fois par joe”, and “du capsules chak six le”; but by the end, I felt confident that the patients understood. For once, I felt like five years of French classes paid off.
One student that made a particular impression on me was a girl named Sylmithe. Sylmithe was 16 years old and deaf. She showed me a picture of herself and the baby she had when she was 15 years old. When I asked her where her baby was, she told me that he was dead. To meet such a beautiful girl who had become a mother and lost her baby at such a young age was heartbreaking. Now, 16 years old, and living at St. Vincent’s, I have a hard time imagining what will happen to Sylmithe when she is done with school. I hope she can have a family some day.