As we sat across from one another after our third trip to BLB, it was fun to reflect upon how we got here…we are both full time professors of Nursing at Regis College, work part-time in clinical practice, married and have 4 children. We were in the right place at the right time.
It all happened one late afternoon in November 2016. During a casual conversation with another Regis faculty we learned about a potential partnership with Be Like Brit to develop a sustainable medical clinic to serve the needs of women and children in Grand Goave. An opportunity to do medical outreach; we both knew our time had come, don’t overthink – just do it!
That has been our approach with the medical clinic. For those who have been to Haiti, you understand how the first trip is consumed with the sights, sounds and smells of a third world country. Everywhere you look there is need! And everywhere you look there are people and multiple barriers - It was very overwhelming!
The first step was to organize the clinic. We knew if we were to maximize our time we had to have some organization. This was an easy team effort and a fun day for us to get to know our collaborative partner, BLB nurse Mirlaine. She is a tremendous woman and a resource we could not be without. She is smart, compassionate and a guiding light as we learn the medical needs of Haitian people. Very different and complex as many of them have never seen a medical provider, and have limited food, water and protection from the environment.
Now onto clinic day. We had no idea what to expect but knew not to overthink. The plan was to see patients from 9-12. We were reassured multiple times that “they will come”, but we had no idea who or how many were coming. We worked nonstop, seeing upper respiratory symptoms, fever, dehydration, stomach complaints, rashes, infections. Mirlaine taught us and we taught her; we collected data on accessibility and availability of resources. We never knew what was next, but we kept going and had a successful first day! Adding to the remarkable day as we reviewed index cards (our charting system), we counted 33 patients – we knew Brit was with us.
This last trip started with a full day clinic in the mountains – a mobile clinic! An opportunity to see those with little to no access to care. These limitations were obvious as we slowly drove on an unpaved road up a steep mountainside. How could anyone walk all this way or safely drive a moto only to walk miles to the nearest medical clinic? Haiti director, Love got the word out that we would be arriving and reassured us that “they will come”. And they did! We saw 56 patients that day, mostly women and children; one patient in particular reminds me why we are here. We were delivering care out of a small school in the mountains that day. It was getting quite warm and we were tired. I see an elderly woman walking slowly in, staring at the floor, she sat down at our station. I knew immediately that something was different in her eyes. Nico, one of our translators started asking our guiding questions. What is your name, your age, and what brings you here to see us? She stared flatly ahead and tells us she can’t eat or sleep because her 4-year-old granddaughter died 3 days ago from fever and infection. With glassy eyes she told us they couldn’t get her to the hospital in time. I felt devastated and helpless, this is not right. What can we possibly do to ease her pain?
We learned thankfully that she lived in the same complex as her children, and they took care of her and her sick husband. This gave us a touch of relief as we knew she had a support system. We were able to provide some nutritional supplements, snacks and a few antihistamine tablets for her to take before bed to help her sleep. We discussed that she was important to her family, and the steps she could take to get well. We taught about hydration, nutrition, and sleep, and the importance of seeking care down the mountain if she needs to. This day we learned more than she did. The story of the mountains is about family and love but also lack of education and access.
The picture below represents one of our happier moments that day on the mountain. An older woman came in. She sat down holding something wrapped up loosely in a towel. We took her over quickly and when she unwrapped the towel there was a newborn baby girl! The grandmother told us she was born 4 days ago, and her mother was recovering from a cesarean section. They wanted to make sure the baby was okay. We examined this beautiful normal newborn and explained she appeared perfect and was simply exhibiting some normal hormonal effects. We taught about newborn care and how to care for the mom that was recovering. The proud grandmother left reassured and happy.
Our final day of clinic at BLB was very busy with many sick children. Throughout the day as we welcomed patients into the clinic one boy stood out to us. He stood by himself patiently waiting his turn. He wore a green shirt and had severely swollen lips and a noticeable infection on one side. He was able to tell us that he couldn’t eat, his neck was sore, and his lips were swollen. He had the saddest eyes. We cleaned the area and treated him for a perioral infection, with oral and topical antibiotics. Now, he was ready to walk home alone with his bag of medications, ointments, analgesics and vitamins. We then asked him to wait until the end of our clinic, so we could walk him home to educate his mom on his care. While he waited Fredo sat with him, read books and played games – a sure sign that Love Lives Here. The boy with the green shirt was beginning to smile as he played, and after we walked him home he turned to us and said merci – it was a great day!
We feel very lucky to be a part of this collaborative medical clinic and are so thankful to Cherylann and Len and the Regis College Haiti Project.
We hope you enjoyed our blog,
Sheryl Kelleher, MSN- FNP
Lisa Krikorian, MSN – FNP
A special thank you to Love for helping us all week and coordinating our clinics...thank you to Frankie our driver and translator...thank you to Bijour for documenting with photos and for making us feel safe...thank you Nico for translation...thank you to all the kitchen staff who made lunch and provided drinks for the patients who waited all day to see us and many thanks to Mirlaine who helped us with her knowledge, translation and cultural perspective.
A great team effort!