Studenter med Haiti
Every single seat in the small church is occupied with people looking expectant. In the sizzling sun outside, more are waiting. Some are locals from the village Bedimel where the church is situated, others have walked for hours to get here. At the signal from one of the translators from Etap Jenes, 150 hands clutching yellow notes shoots up in the air, showing that they are amongst those who will be able to meet a doctor and receive treatment today.
It is the first day with the mobile clinic for Project Haiti, and after hours of planning, sorting medicine, and practicing with different equipment, excited students, doctors and translators are ready to finally treat some patients.
The clinic works as follows: In the church the students measure blood pressure and pulse on adults, and height, weight and pulse on children under 5 years. In a building right next to the church, two rooms are used for consultations with the doctors, and one for the distribution of medicine and further measurements as temperature, test of urine, glucose, saturation of O2 and hemoglobin in the blood.
For the students the tasks ahead are mostly new, and the fact that they are receiving and doing tests on patients for the first time is particularly thrilling. However, the nervousness vanishes as soon as the 239 patients starts to pour in. Soon smiles appear on their faces, for with each task accomplished, the sense of achievement increases. In a matter of minutes the system is up and running, only sporadically interrupted by small arguments in the line outside. Because although the patients are getting treatment and medicines for free, they still have to wait for hours in approximately 30 degrees celsius. However, the shuffling in the line ceases almost immediately on the command of Ingvill, Edwin, or the “security guards” from Etap Jenes.
The six Norwegian doctors are in good company, with three haitian doctors and four haitian nurses. The Norwegians also have a translator from Etap Jenes each, which proved to be invaluable when meeting people with a completely different understanding of health and sickness than what we have in Norway. Most of the patients in this area lack education, resulting in very limited knowledge of anatomy and what actual signs of sickness are. For instance, most people doesn’t know that discharge from the vagina is completely normal, and the often heard description “I have fever in my blood” is still a mystery to both doctors and translators. When navigating amongst numerous vague symptoms, the local doctors as well as the translators are extremely helpful.
A heart breaking insight into the famine caused by Hurricane Matthew slowly sunk in throughout the two days. The doctors learnt the importance of asking “Eske ou mane byen?” (Are you eating well?). When waiting out this question the patients would answer: “Yes … but not after Matthew.” Their crops are destroyed, the fishing has been worse from the destruction of coral reefs and many of their animals died. Adding this on top of their already bad nutritional conditions makes the situation a real health threat.
After two days in Bedimel, and almost 600 patiens treated, the crew enjoys a couple hours on the beach. The next day awaits new challenges, when the whole medical community in Saint Louis de Sud is expected to meet for Project Haitis workshop.