So. I have both been extremely busy and extremely lazy since I came back from Port au Prince two weeks ago. I’ve been traveling a lot for interviews and when I’m not traveling, I’m watching A LOT of TV or reading Count of Monte Cristo (it’s massive and a great read!). Carmen SanDiego meets the Sloth equals Shruti.
Hope you enjoy my last installment!
I’ll risk being cliche with this statement, but my last day was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was ready for hot showers, being able to brush my teeth with tap water, personal space and to see my family. On the other hand, I felt like I was just getting to know the children and the people on the trip I had befriended.
Our last day was the international day for handicapped children, so the children of St. Vincent’s had planned a talent show of sorts. The Bishop and local media had also attended. Much of this day was like the concert from Sunday night. It had seemed odd to me on the previous night that despite such a large population of deaf children, 90% or more of the acts required the ability to hear and that there was very little signing on the side for the deaf to know what was going on. Three of my favorite kids, or my three “badmaash (Hindi for mischievous musketeers”, all happened to be deaf. I had gotten to know Woodley, Woodley 2 (they look like brothers and no one I asked knew his name) and Raphael the day before while manning the coloring station before the Sunday concert. The four of us happened to be seated near one another during the talent show. What happened next was really special to me. Somehow these three kids and I, despite lacking a means to communicate, bonded. We all sat through the concert together and I had fun with them. I don’t really know it happened, but it was kind of awesome. And I definitely wouldn’t have gotten through the concert if it wasn’t for them.
There was one act that was incredible to witness, especially with Raphael, Woodley 1&2. The school’s chorus and some of the older deaf children sang/signed “Amazing Grace”. The musketeers were hooked. I was hooked. The whole audience was moved. After the concert, my musketeers hugged me and then being boys, ran away to go be crazy boys.
There was a special lunch served for the staff, guests of honor and us afterward. It was really weird to see how a special lunch was set up for us when it was supposed to be a day recognizing the kids’ disabilities.
After lunch, we just spent some more time with the kids. The wood that Jenn had ordered to make planks for extra bed support had arrived in the afternoon, so we measured and cut all the pieces for one bed to show the staff what they needed to do. We took the first cut planks upstairs to the “bedridden” room and placed them under one of the kids beds. It made such a difference! I hung around upstairs to spend time with Baby Margaret, Diana, YoLin and Auguste. Per usual, I could only handle 20 minutes before I got overwhelmed and teary. This day was even harder because I was saying bye, maybe forever.
After our first clinic day, John had asked me how it felt for me to be seeing all that I had seen. I did not mean to minimize the effect that being with the Haitians had on me, but I replied simply that whether I’m in a clinic serving Hispanics in Memphis, the indigent in Murfreesboro, children in Vrindavan, India, or Port au Prince, Haiti, it’s all the same. Treating patients is difficult. Treating patients in poverty with extremely limited means and resources honestly just makes you feel defeated. In medical school we’re trained to use the latest technology and pharmacology available and to apply our resources in an evidence based manner. All that goes to *** when your patient’s wages fall far below the poverty line. You cannot give up though. You cannot let how awkward you feel for how little you are capable of doing let you become defeated. You have to keep doing something. Maybe it’s not enough. Yeah, that sucks, but it’s better than doing nothing and simply ignoring the problem. It’s perhaps a bit idealistic, yet I choose to have faith in the belief that little changes now can lead to drastic improvements in the future. It takes time. It’s frustrating and infuriating. But that anger is part of the process and will help build the momentum for progress. You just have to keep pushing forward and doing whatever you can to help.