- Some say that this is the very essence of life; the ebb and flow, the pulse of life. A kind of roller coaster experience. Wherever you are there are as many good days as bad. In Haiti, the pulse of life is just as palpable, but the rapidity with which situations change is unbelievable. Since coming to Haiti, there haven’t been good and bad days so much as there have been good and bad hours. The unpredictability is what has made my time in Haiti such a tiring and emotionally-involving existance.
- Meet Marie.
- She hops into the clinic on a worn crutch that is too short for her. She doesn’t know that the crutch can be adjusted to her height, so she’s adjusted to it as best she can. She smiles and does not appear to be in any major discomfort. We review her paperwork – creased, folded and shuffled often and almost falling apart since all patients take their medical records home. There is no real method to our medical records system, so if the records were kept at the hospital, they would only get lost.
- Her records state that she suffered a tibia fracture in the 2010 earthquake. It was then operated on at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince, but, like so many of our patients, she was not able to get adequate post-surgery care and came to us at HAH in February for a tibial non-union, unhealed fracture.
- There is a green sheet (all surgical notes are written on green sheets) stating that she had surgery in late February and was supposed to come in for a follow-up visit the middle of March, but she never made it. When I ask her why, she explains that her community was blocked off due to political unrest and riots regarding the presidential and senate elections. Even though I hadn’t heard of any trouble in Laramie, I really doubt that she would lie. It’s just as likely that she just didn’t have enough money to get to the hospital (2 hours away) until now. Well, she has had no pain, and x-rays show she has healed well. She is good to go. Throw away the crutch, well actually we will keep it and give it to someone later on. Thank God we don’t have to take her back to surgery another time because she was not able to come to clinic because of the political unrestThe next patient comes in…well, actually a mother with a child who is the patient. The instant you see the kid you know something is wrong. You look but you’re not really sure what is going on until it hits you—this kid has a really small head. It’s called microcephaly. These kids have almost no brain and most die within a few days of birth—this kid is 2 years old. There is nothing we can do for them except say we are sorry, a sigh, and a shake of the head. You really have to wonder why kids like this would survive this long in the places that give them the least opportunity for life.
- Then we have two guys who are already hospitalized with us. Both had motorcycle accidents. Both have lower leg fractures. One may lose his leg; the other probably won’t. Then we see the basketball player who jammed his finger a month ago. Since it still hurts, he decided to come and get it checked out. Well, it’s broken, and because it’s been so long, he may end up with a fusion preventing any further bending of his finger in the future.Then what about Salma? Her leg was crushed in the earthquake. We have not gotten the story 100% straight just yet but her leg was progressively chopped off until now she only has a short stump below her hip. Now you have to understand, Salma is 21 and as attractive as a bikini model, and she knows it. Well, she is now with us because her wound refuses to heal. We already removed infected bone from her twice; she has been on antibiotics all without any real improvement. A few weeks ago I had sent her down to the Prosthetics clinic. She seemed really apathetic and down on her spirit back then and it was my hope that a new leg would help her to see whatever bright parts of her life there where to be found. She hops into clinic today on her crutches, no leg. I bump into the prosthetist and ask about her. He says she has been one of the hardest patients yet this year, she has been non-compliant, demanding and generally just difficult for him to work with, I think the words Prima Dona where mentioned in passing. Well I can sort of see that, but then I see her back in clinic, and watch a little bit how she interacts with our staff, I’ve been around long enough to notice crocodile tears when they are not directed at me, and she’s got them in spades. She is no sicker or disabled than any of our other patients but she turns on those looks and gestures to get to the head of the line, to wait in the AC for her turn and basically get whatever she wants. Well that was sad to see, but then I saw that she had brought her new leg with her, an excellent leg, definitely one of the best I’ve seen our guys do, well over $2,000 US and she got it for free, and then I watch her throw it down letting it clatter down the stairs – she didn’t drop it, no she threw it. I’m still not sure what to think or feel. Here is a pretty girl who suffered a terrible accident, who is using her beauty and disability together to manipulate people, and the people who are putting in extra work to help her out are being dissed by the way she treats their work.
- Then there is the guy who lost his leg 3 years ago and now has been using his prosthetic 24/7 for 3 months straight. He sleeps in it. He swims in it. This is the worst case of denial I’ve ever seen. This guy is doing everything possible to not be any amputee; he does not even know how to use crutches. So now as you can imagine he has the end of his leg covered in blisters and open sores. Well reality check my friend this is not going to change and unless you take care of what leg you have you will lose that, too.
- Betty, she is probably my favorite patient of all time! We did her surgery for SEVERE bow legs in February but due to complications she has been with us since then. Now she really was a Prima Dona at first, the highest maintenance 13 year old I’ve ever met, complained for everything, but with time and tough love we have become the greatest of friends. She is now walking on her own with the help of a walker and every time I see her smile I figure that all the rest is worth it.