It’s hard to describe Haiti. I try to use descriptive words, pictures when I can, and even video. I want to tell you about Cholera and what is going on, but I’m not sure exactly how to do that. So, here is my attempt to update you on that:
What images do you conjure up when you hear the word Cholera? For me, it’s a strange word. I feel like there were awful cholera outbreaks like a hundred years ago-and you hear the word pop up in remote places around the world. I see images from some old movie, in black and white, with beds all over the place, and placid looking people lying there waiting to die.
The truth is it is an awful disease. It’s a humiliating and embarrassing process as your body goes into reverse. All your cells dump fluids instead of absorbing them causing a massive loose of fluids through incessant and violent vomiting and watery diarrhea. Some patients are lucky enough to have a hole in their cot and a bowl near by with someone helping them. Others are not so lucky.
The organization we are partnering with, nwhcm, has set up a cholera clinic trying to help with the epidemic, in St. Louis du Nord. (About 7 miles, an hour drive from where we live in Port de Paix) It doesn’t look much different than those old black and white movies depict. People are piled into one large room lying on cots, mats or the floor, spilling into the hallway, onto the steps, and outside. IV’s are hooked up onto poles, or taped to a cement pillar, or roped onto anything close by. There is a mixture of Haitian and American doctors and nurses trying to help. Not enough of course, and they are all taking turns working day and night. People in gowns are walking around moping the floor with bleach, spraying people’s shoes with bleach, trying to make sure the vomit and diarrhea with cholera in it doesn’t spread. (Bleach kills Cholera.)
Most people are arriving when they are already severely dehydrated because they don’t know any better. Most have never even heard of Cholera until now, (the last time Cholera hit Haiti was over 100 years ago Therefore, they don’t know how to prevent it, how to treat it, or when to come and get help. After they arrive, they are assessed, and if they can keep fluids down, they are given a special water mixture to drink. If they are vomiting too often, they are given fluids through an IV. And they wait. They wait to see if their body can get enough water back in it, and if it’s too late, their whole body starts to shut down because they don’t have enough water. This clinic sees about 60-80 people a day, and so far 25 people have died at the clinic. Mind you, this is a small town, not a huge city. We don’t know how many have been treated or have died in Port de Paix.
Brandon has been helping with the logistical side of things, the organization and getting things done. He is pretty much great at anything he sets his mind to, and even in a country like this he does an amazing job. He is helping to coordinate medical teams coming to help, figuring out where and how to burn contaminated trash, coordinating supplies (or lack thereof), and how to take care of dead bodies. (Not very fun jobs if you ask me!) We both are making the hour drive there and back almost everyday to help out. Since I am not medical, I am just trying to help with what I can. I organize supplies, do tons of laundry from all the scrubs everyone is wearing, try to nicely force people to drink water, help interpret with the little Creole I know, and help take care of the patients who have no family there to take care of them. To be honest, that is the hardest part. It’s sad enough to see patients literally dying in front of your eyes, but then seeing that no one is there to give them water or help them at all, it breaks my heart.