We lost one yesterday. A little 4-month-old girl named Jeanty. We arrived at our third mobile clinic site at Tabanacle de Victoire to find her mother waiting patiently in the triage line with the little one in her arms. Chronically ill at baseline with hydrocephalus with a VP shunt in place, she’d been acutely ill for several days with a cough, increased work of breathing, and diarrhea. The blood in the urine had started yesterday.
Triage is primarily a visual process here in Haiti, and I put the baby in front. We saw her first and transferred her almost immediately. She looked sick but not toxic. We were all incredibly shocked and saddened when the transfer team returned and told us she had died shortly after arrival at the referral hospital.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, losing a patient in such circumstances is devastating, especially one so young. I can’t help but feel she never really had a chance in her life, from the moment she arrived four months ago for her brief stay in this world.
I will wonder for the rest of my life if things might have gone differently for little Jeanty had we been able to set up our mobile clinic at Tabanacle de Victoire a day earlier. We are trying to do everything we can here, but with limited resources and a finite number of providers we can’t be everywhere at once. We have to start somewhere, and we can only hope we are finding those who need us the most, in time to make a difference.
Yesterday, that system failed. As we start the day today, I wonder, who needs us the most today? And how on earth will we find them in time?
Thank you again to Kaiser Permanente and all those who make it possible for us to do this work. Please keep the aid coming. The people of Haiti need all the help they can get.
Update from Suzy Fitzgerald MD, January 27, 2010