Note: Mary Sue Carlson, MD, is an ophthalmologist at the Kaiser Permanente Falls Church (Virginia) Medical Center. She has traveled annually to Medor, Haiti, for several years through her church organization, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, Va. She traveled to Haiti this month to help provide aid during the cholera epidemic. She sent these two dispatches on Wednesday, Dec. 8:
Today we lost the woman who was in the cholera clinic. We are all in semi-shock. If she had been in the United States, where we could have checked labs and monitored her with up-to-date techniques, she may still be alive. This is one of the hardships of Medor’s remoteness. If the air ambulance had been operational several days ago, things could be different.
The medical clinic took care of more than 200 patients today– one person with mild cholera–one teen boy who was severely burned during an earthquake aftershock last February. His arm and hand are totally disfigured and his arm may need to be amputated. We would transport him to Paul Farmer’s hospital in San Marc, but that hospital is closed to all patients except for those with cholera.
I spoke to all the children in each of the 15 classrooms in the primary school. They are now all up on how the protect themselves from cholera. It kept me out of clinic all morning–but this is totally worth it if we can help stem the transmission of the disease. When the road is totally operational, it may be easier to get bleach up the mountain.
We learned that “Lazarus” is not the only child from the school who died. One other child also died. And two other children have gotten cholera and survived. One girl missed classes for a month. Today was her first day back in school. I took her picture and will show you when we return.
Heidi was interviewed by Ann Curry today– NBC seems to be focusing on the airstrip, and the clinic. We are a bit concerned that they are ignoring the 13 years of groundwork of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
We learned today that Pere Luckson has started an adult education program. The students at these classes seem excited and determined to learn.
The work on the airstrip is progressing, although slowly. Pere Luckson will hire more workers to tackle this. Stan is still optimistic that the work can be completed before the Rural Area Medical Volunteer Corps team leaves but a bit concerned of recent slow going.
Today one RAM volunteer who was working on the airstrip got overheated and dehydrated. He was treated with IV hydration and told that he is on “vacation” for the rest of the trip.
I took care of 58 patients today–doing eye exams and distributing glasses. With everything else going on this seems pretty dull and mundane. But the look on the patients’ faces when they are fit with the proper glasses shows that this is still an important function.
When speaking to all the primary school children today I sent them greetings, prayers and love from the people of OLQP. There is some drama and disappointments going on around here. But it is our twinning relationship, our faith and love for each other gives us strength.
* * *
First – we are all ok.
The election results are in and many people are accusing the Haitian government of election fraud. Right now there are riots in Port-au-Prince. The UN has engaged some unruly crowds. There are tire burnings. The airport is closed. Ann Curry and several others from NBC could not leave Medor today as planned. She has been filming from the rectory porch speaking about the crisis. This will be aired on (Wednesday night’s) news.
All this and our children in Medor here went to class today as usual. The clinics were packed. The farmers conducted business as usual.
This certainly drives home the fact that there are some real blessings to Medor’s remote location.