Saturday, June 2, 2012

First weekend in Haiti.  So far it's been amazing, but VERY VERY hot.

Before I start, I need to wish Kevin the BEST OF LUCK ON THE CFA!!!  I'm sure you're kicking ass on it.

Okay, back to Haiti.  I had my first experience at the hospital working in the OB clinic Thursday morning.  It's very different here, where mornings are completely devoted to patient visits (around 7 - 11 AM), and afternoons are for delivering lab and radiology results, so I'm in the clinic mostly in the morning.  I shadowed one of the OB doctors in their inpatient ward.  He spoke fairly good English which made it so much easier for me (my one semester of French is extremely limited...), and he let me do little things like measuring fundal heights of pregnant women and listen for the fetal heartbeat.  I was also apparently the signing MD for the lab results but um, that seems like a very normal thing since we're all just told to sign off on the lab results the doctors tell us to order.  He's a very nice man, and so he'll be teaching me some Creole, while I teach him more English.  Also he wanted to learn some Korean which seems of very minimal use but he was very enthusiastic to learn.  Many of the physicians here are wonderful.
(FYI, the pale blue scrubs just brought back memories of Anatomy...)


Yesterday, we watched Haitian nurses train the community health agents and cholera workers on recognizing cholera, how to rehydrate patients, etc.  I didn't understand any of it for obvious reasons but it was still really interesting to see it.  It's an obviously really important focus for the hospital, so I'm hoping my project can be useful for them and that we can get the cholera focus of my survey approved.

Afterwards, we rode the bus to Cap-Haitien where we had landed, where there's also another hospital, Justinian Hospital.  We were in the van sandwiched between each other, and it didn't help that there was bumper to bumper traffic (just like Friday rush hour traffic in the US!).  I ALWAYS get shafted in squeezing people in cars.  I guess I'm usually the smallest person so that means I get the smallest amount of space.  My back was rotated probably 90 degrees for about an hour, clutching because only half my butt was on the seat.  BUT, I did get the closest seat to the AC so I think that's a fair trade-off.  I wasn't sweating at least =P  (it's mid 90s during the day usually)

This is the entrance to Justinian Hospital which is one of the 2 only level 3 (highest level of medical care)  hospitals in Haiti.

Courtyard in Justinian Hospital, beautiful view.

Maternity and cardiology wings are here.

After going to Justinian Hospital, we went to the Meds and Food for Kids factory nearby.  They make this paste that's high calorie for malnourished children.  The amount of calories varies depending on the severity of malnourishment.

The pastes are made with peanut, milk or soy flour, and other completely natural ingredients.  Look at all the peanuts!

This morning we hiked up to the Citadel at the bright hour of 6 AM.  We walked through the center of Milot which was dead at that hour.  Most of Milot looks just like this, with little stores or restaurants right next to each other.  It's also a Saturday, so most people weren't out.  During the weekday though, it's crazy.  Haitians are trying to sell tons of different things like fruit, sodas, random foods, etc.  I think I have to say no meci more than I can count.

First leg of the journey is to the Palace (more pictures later) . The road was pretty smooth here but we'd found out later that that would not continue for most of the way.  Summary of the journey: 8 mile hike (4 miles each way), going all the way up to a 3000 feet above sea level landmark on a path that is very rocky so your feet are constantly trying to grip.  My ankles were rolling around everywhere trying to adjust to the terrain.  We could've taken motor vehicles up for the majority of it and just hike up the last 40 minutes which happens to be the most difficult part of the journey.  But no, we're all doing the beach body workout so 8 mile hike, here we go.  Our mantra to motivate us?  BEACH BODY WORKOUT.  Regardless, it's going to be a very long morning.

About a little more than a mile in, we hit the Palace at the edge of Milot.  I kind of zoned out when we got the history of this which we got at the end of the hike on our way back because I was too dehydrated and zoned out to pay attention.
This is one of the many water sites we would see along the way.  It looks clean but most likely it has a ton of different bacterias that get people sick a lot.  My project will be taking samples of water sites like these and testing them for cholera.  People use the same water for a lot of things like drinking water, washing clothes, and bathing.  I didn't see any latrines sooooo my guess on the water quality?  Not good.  I'll be starting this Monday at a village called Thibeau to assess different water sites.

Maybe about 15% of the way there, we start to get some elevation and see all this beautiful greenery.  Dr. Pearlmutter and Dr. Hyde decided to take a "shortcut" with one of the Haitian guides, Michelle.  We also got a couple of other "guides" who tagged along hoping to make money.  One of the guides Fabian, was my personal escort essentially to make sure I wouldn't die.  He stayed behind when I needed a break so that I wouldn't get lost.  He also taught me some Haitian and helped me fend off people harassing me to buy jewelry and other trinkets that I had zero interest.  Maybe in 6 weeks when I start to buy souvenirs for everyone, I will (note, souvenirs likely will be jewelry, little animal figurines, or who knows what else).  He has also volunteered to buy mangoes and other fruits for me in the markets since they'll charge me probably 600% of the value as an American.  So he'll get it for me for dirt cheap, and I just have to tip him a couple of bucks.  New BFF?  Anyway, this is where we met up with Dr. P and Dr. Hyde, but I don't think it was a good shortcut since they came later than we did.  Part of the group on the way back went down the shortcut but their account?  Many falls and cuts.  My long way won.


Dr. Hyde decided to turn around because well, we still had 3+ miles to go uphill hiking (starting from basically sea level to 3000 feet above sea level on rocky terrain in blazing sun?  I don't blame him).  We walked maybe a mile or so and look at the sweat, specifically Alec's beach body workout abs.  The sweat is clearly a sign that the workout is working.  We look relatively in good spirits but soon, that would fade.  Well, mostly me and Julian were lagging a little behind.  I think it's a Jersey thing.  The hike uphill was so difficult that my heart was racing probably 110 beats/minute at its peak, and I could feel the palpitations off my chest.  I swear I was tachycardic, and I thought I was going to die.  But with rest, it went back down.  Plus, my legs just got into the rhythm of moving forward that stopping too much made me even more tired.

 There's the Citadel in the back!!   So close yet so far.

2 hours later from the onset of the hike, we reach THE CITADEL!!  There were so many cannons, cannoballs.  20,000 people died building the Citadel which is nuts.  I don't think I mentioned it yet, but the Citadel I think was built when Haiti was divided and there was a civil war within the country.  This may be entirely wrong because I was just too happy to be up there that I couldn't absorb any information.

Loads and loads of cannonballs!
 The Citadel from the back view.
Proof that the group made it!!  
In our stupidity, we all decided to lean over the edge and look.  I was terrified and beyond nauseous.  In the USA, I'm sure there would be rails and fences but nope, not here.  But, it was a surreal view and something I can't do anywhere else.  Dr. P didn't participate which was probably a good thing.  He's the only real doctor on our trip so he's essential for this trip.  We're disposable.
Alec has declared to be my BFFL now.  He loves the sorority squat, so we had to do the second most popular sorority photo position: pop the hip and arm.  What a pro.  Along our journey, here we also met UN Chileans and Ecuadorians touring the Citadel (there's a U.N. office run by Chile in Milot).  They were very excited to see us and wanted us to be in all their pictures.  Frankly, I wasn't sure if they were more excited to see the Citadel or us.  Based on the 10 minutes with them, I think we were the bigger Tourist attraction.  Behind us was the Citadel prison.  There are very small jail windows near the ground (maybe a couple of inches high to let minimum sunlight in).

 Look at how high up we are!!  This is from the highest point in the Citadel.  On the other side we could see the Grand River of the North, Milot, Cap-Haitien, and other villages.  It all looked so tiny!

I thought the walk back would be a piece of cake because we were going downhill.  I was completely wrong.  In addition to sweating profusely because it was ridiculously hot at 11 AM, downhill on an unsteady terrain meant a lot of pressure on the knees.  Halfway down, I ran out of my 2 liters of water so I was sweating profusely without replenishment.  We did end up taking one "shortcut," a different one.  It was this highly inclined path, maybe a foot wide separate from the main road.  I thought I was going to slip the entire way down, so one of the tag-a-longs, this man who's probably incredibly old for a Haitian (maybe around mid 50s?) grabs my hand and escorts me so I don't die.  They think he was trying to "woo" me but don't worry Kevin, you're the only one!

Anyway, we got a tour of the Palace like I mentioned before.  Not really sure why I look huge because I'm pretty sure I shed half my body on this hike but anyway... that was the final part!  I trudged my tired butt back to the medical compound, finally returning at noon.  After a 6 hour, 8 mile hike and walking around the ginormous Citadel, beating sun, I came back NOT BURNED!  Thank you profuse SPF 50 and giant hat.  My legs now though, 4 hours later, feel like jello, and my feet are beyond blistered.  I plan on just sitting here for the rest of the night.

This hike is probably the most accomplished I ever felt!  I can't say I'll do it again but I feel great now.  Likely tomorrow I'll wish I never did this when I really feel the soreness.

I promise these entries will get shorter once I stop doing touristy things!  I couldn't upload all the pictures because these already took ages to upload.  Hope everyone is enjoying the first weekend in June back in the States.

Oh and YAY CELTICS FOR GAME 3!  I have faith in my boys to take it.


  1. Loved reading about the hike! You go girl, that's amazing! Looking forward to more posts soon. Have fun and be safe!

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