Clinic this past week has been full of great learning experiences and lots of patients! We have been seeing lots of patients each day which has meant we are limited with the time we can spend with each. Add to that language and cultural barriers making it sometimes a challenge to address the mental/emotional causes of disease. We seem to draw on some modalities more than others (ie. hands-on physical, energetic) in treatment because of time constraints.
Yesterday, I (Keshia) asked for help from the acupuncturist here – to treat my shoulder which had gone from a small annoyance to a major disruptor of my daily life. (Two weeks ago I stepped on something in the street that punctured through my sandal and into my foot. With tetanus being endemic here and my out of date vaccinations, the docs on staff here were worried about it. This gave way to a search for the vaccine, and a possible trip to the Dominican to get it. Long story short, I did get the vaccine in Haiti and since started to progressively lose mobility in my shoulder!)
The acupuncturist’s confidence in her medicine, the time she took out for me, and her hands-on, energetic approach stirred me to much gratitude. Not only because the build up of toxins in my neck and shoulder was set free with her treatment, but her care sent me a message so important about taking the time explore the not so obvious causes of disease. About sensing and exploring intuitively to heal people.
Haiti has mass nutrient deficiency and this guides our medical practice here in a big way – we give supplements to correct the deficiency. But, we give supplements in every case because it is convenient and easy but also necessary. But the people we see carry something much deeper than that.
One woman presented with Stage 2 Hypertension (190/100 mmHg, nearly a medical emergency warranting immediate hospital referral) and multiple abnormalities on listening to her heart. We suspected multiple previous small heart attacks. She said it had been like that since the earthquake when she lost two of her grandchildren. She literally and metaphorically had a broken heart. Her face was quivering, but she was containing it all as she told her story. Here is where I want to work! That is where the realness is.
Despite that, the ‘high volume, long day’ style of practice has brought many lessons and rich experiences to us. It has been incredibly valuable to our clinical confidence and also to the people of this community. We have learned many fold more than what we would have at home in clinic, and really we are just so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this project 🙂 Thanks for all of your support!!
Sorry all for the long delay! Internet time has been limited and we have been putting in overtime in clinic this week.
We connected with an American photographer who was contracted by an NGO to capture the beauty ofHaitiin photos. As part of his trip, he wanted to photograph us in action at a mobile clinic! We spent a day in the city at a school seeing patients. It was a great day of new types of patients and different case presentations. We saw malignant hypertension and a patient with recent stroke, and then the regular gastroenteritis, colds and flu’s, osteoarthritis and skin conditions.
An elderly woman came to see us at the mobile clinic and commented to me that she knew she was in good hands when white people were helping her. Her comment stuck out in my mind. It is impossible to escape our ‘whiteness’ here and what that represents. Our education, our economic prosperity and potential (despite having student loans) and our automatic privilege feels so obvious in contrast to the reality here. Everyday feels like a process of accepting both the realities we see here in Haiti and the realities of our own lives back in Canada, and most importantly our own limitations – the limitations of what we physically can do in one day, of how many patients we can reasonably see without burning ourselves out, of how much we can financially give, of what our medicines can and cannot do. It is being able to say “I can help you” just as easily as finding the words “I can’t”. And this goes well beyond the color of our skin.
We had a chance to take the day to seeHaiti’s “world wonder” – the Citidele. It is a palace and fortress built by King Cristoph to protectHaitifrom French invaders in the 1800’s. We climbed up and up into the clouds – a three hour jaunt – to get to this historical site! The sound of mountain flutes and regular pit stops for Haitian butter crackers kept our spirits up, and the climb was all worth it when we arrived at the top! The vista itself was breathtaking atop the tallest mountain in sight, never mind the impressive Citidele architecture. The wonder of the experience was lined with the tragedy of the 20,000 slaves that died to build it in the name of Cristoph’s mission andHaiti’s protection.
We are gearing up to say goodbye toHaitiin a few days. Wednesday morning sees us head to home and get back toTorontolife. We are sad to go in many ways, but also feeling like the time is right.Haitihas stolen our hearts and offered us gifts immeasurable in quantity and rich in quality. The experience goes deep and it soon is time to take home our transformed selves and share what we have learned.
We have had full clinic days this week both at the Mama Baby clinic and off-site at a nearby school which was serving as a satellite clinic. Our days have usually started by 9:30 and have ended by 4:30. Between the two of us and the group of 10 CCNM students we were able to treat a couple hundred people overall!
Clinic today was particularly rewarding for me. It was a day of many follow-up visits with patients Keshia or I had seen earlier in the week or last week. All of them had great improvements in the ailments they originally presented with- and while it is unrealistic to expect complete resolution of complicated chronic conditions wrapped up with cultural and economic challenges- hearing about improvements puts a smile on my face. Keshia saw a very malnourished woman last week with hypotension (resulting in daily fainting spells), full body itching, and various other complaints. With some simple interventions and education she walked in today to report no fainting since the last visit and her blood pressure was increased to a healthy 120/78. I hope and pray that she only continues to feel improvements. Another child presented originally with digestive disturbances and diarrhea. After cutting out coffee and sugary drinks from the child’s diet (common beverages for kids here) and adding some probiotics and a multi, there was significant improvement. A little education goes a long way.
This weekend will bring many comings and goings- tomorrow morning we’ll be saying goodbye to the group of students who will be returning to Canada- they will be missed! It was wonderful having them around to help and watching them grow in their clinical skills. We’ll also be saying goodbye to a lovely midwife who has spent the week here- wishing them the best on their travels! We are looking forward to meeting an Acupuncturist who should arrive in the next couple days.
I can’t believe we only have a week and half left here! We’ll be soaking up all we can of beautiful Haiti until then!
It was a very challenging day on Friday that we are still recovering from. We saw some intensely unwell patients in clinic. One child had necrotic otitis media – an ear infection that had progressed into the bones of the skull. The mother brought a jar of what she had collected falling from her daughter’s ear – to our horror, it was a jar of maggots. We referred her immediately to the hospital for IV antibiotics, anaesthetic and ear lavage (cleaning), but her mother was unable to bring her because she couldn’t afford to go. The pain that this child was in is unimaginable. Her cries and screaming will stay with me for a long time. One of the American nurses on staff donated money for her to go to the hospital, which was a generous God-send.
It was challenging cases like this that seemed to fill our day and we worked two hours overtime to see everyone. It felt like we didn’t have a minute to stop and take a breather, seeing patient after patient. By the end, both Laura and I cried – trying to find our grounding and shed some of the emotion that had built up all day. It wasn’t long until the prenatal room had an emergency – a pregnant woman with respiratory rates of 80 per minute and what we later thought was petit-mal seizures. Laura and I assisted the midwifery staff in trying to keep her vitals normal. We gave her Carbo-Veg homeopathic and had a great response– her resp rate dropped and she started to become more alert. We were so pleased with our medicine!
In the midst of this chaos, we received word that a two year old girl who had been in the centre’s care died suddenly of what we suspect is malnutrition. It was hard to hear this news. There seems to be such an injustice, always something more that there is to do, something more that is just beyond helping hands. I am trying to find some peace about the cycle of Life and Death, about some plan or intention that is greater than I could know. Trying to take it in and let it go – like the breath.