Our pharmacy this trip was managed and operated by three courageous souls. Two were students from Tulane Medical School, Kellar McCloy and Jiselle Bock, and their able bodied assistant Lauren Craig acted as pharmacy tech, interpreter, messenger, and overall Girl Friday.
We brought 12 suitcases loaded with medical supplies to St. Vincent’s, and all these were unloaded into the beautiful new cabinets installed for us by the school’s staff. The pharmacy is across the courtyard from the medical clinic, and soon after the clinic operations are underway, there is a line of patients at the pharmacy waiting for their prescriptions to be filled. All three of our pharmacy staff spoke French to varying degrees, which was a true gift from God. Of course, some of the Haitians speak more Creole than French, so there were still many challenges in instructing patients how to take their medicine, which pill was for stomachache and which one headache. Not to mention explanations to the deaf patients.
The pharmacy itself is a 12×8 room which has an overhead light (something the clinic is lacking) and a fan. Unfortunately, it is located next door to the public toilets, which by the end of the day are quite fragrant. Electricity in Haiti, like clean water, is not always available, and sometimes runs out just when you need it. Usually between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, when clinic is in full swing. Fortunately, the clinic is well lit (and well ventilated) by windows and the only noticeable change when the power goes out, is that the fans stop running. Being the determined souls that we are, the medical staff (and our wonderful helpers, the non-medical members of our team) soldier on; honestly we’re having too much fun to stop, despite the heat. One day we ran rather late, until about 6 PM. After finally closing up the clinic, I walked over to the pharmacy to check on things. When I arrived I found the 3 young mission team members counting pills IN THE DARK, by flashlight! It was only then I realized that when the power had gone out TWO HOURS BEFOREHAND they had no light and no windows to let in sunlight. Yet they had valiantly kept working. Jiselle had a headlamp (how, I wondered, had she known to bring that along for the trip?) and Lauren was holding a flashlight IN HER TEETH while labeling Ziploc bags full of medicines. Kellar had his perpetual grin on his face as he wiped sweat from his brow with his arm. The three of them seemed to be having fun. I am always eternally grateful to the folks who run the pharmacy, especially since each patient seen in the clinic often gets between 2 and 5 prescriptions, and we saw over 200 patients the week we were there.