Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I’ve finally gotten IRB approval!!   So exciting =D  I’ll be finishing up the majority of my water sampling this week, and for the remaining 3 weeks I have for the study, I’ll be doing mostly surveys.  Unfortunately that means I won’t get as many samples as last year’s study, but I’m also doing two studies as opposed to the one.  I’m supposed to still take samples of water  from wells where people I interview get their water, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have already sampled the majority of these places already.  At least, these are the major ones and on roads we should stick to.

Last Friday was actually sad to say goodbye to so many volunteers who were leaving the next day.  Dr. Marc (orthopedic surgeon), Dr. Karen (internist who teaches clinical rotations at UMass Medical School) – I never found out their last names since they introduced themselves by their first names only, Dean Sackey (obviously one of our deans, and an internist), and Dr. Rosenthal (infectious diseases) all were here, so we had such a great group of teachers.  All really took the time to teach us something about medicine and their experiences.

Even in Haiti, I can’t escape the sorority squat.  Will I be doing this 10+ years from now?

Apparently I was the smart person in not going to the beach.  First off, it was pouring all Saturday evening through the morning.  I think about 14 people went to the beach in this somewhat crappy van called a tap-tap, which has an open back, music blaring.  The road to the beach is a little treacherous, with hills and rocky terrain.  Apparently on the way there and back, the van couldn’t make it up the hills so people would have to leave the van, walk up the hill, and go back on.  Then, on the way back, the driver never showed up so they had to wait.  Black smoke was also coming out of the van which is never a good thing.  The tap-tap broke down at one point too.  So, they arrived at 8:30 PM (dinner is normally served at 6:30 PM), drenched because also the pouring rain would obviously go through the open back of the tap-tap. 

Then there was me.  I actually had a fantastic Saturday to myself.  Sometimes, having alone time is the best thing especially when you’re surrounded by people 24/7, as much as I love my group and think they’re fun to be around.  I watched a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm, read some more of Atonement, and did yoga.  I actually think from now on, I’m not going to go to these beach trips except maybe the last visit or so because having the whole day to myself was beyond amazing.

I had a productive Sunday though, took 6 samples.  Since it had just rained, I wanted to compare if the rain would have impact on the bacteria in the water.  There are probably a lot more, but I stuck with the ones on main roads.  I did feel really excited about my project because one of the people who happened to speak English told me he was really excited I was testing the water because no one does that here, and his entire family actually last night all got sick and are in the hospital.

Here are 6 samples that I took before I added any of the bacteria food and magic:

A little more than 24 hours later, here’s what they look like.  Yummmm I know.  The first 5 all have coliform (yellow), and the last one has coliform and E. coli (fluoresces under UV) which wasn’t surprising, since it was river water.  The river water is absolutely disgusting with a ton of trash and pigs swimming in it.  Everyone knows I love animals, but I don’t want animals swimming in my water.

Monday I was in the pediatric and adult outpatient clinic with Amelia and Dr. Early, who’s our faculty advisor for the week.  I’ve never worked with pediatrics in a clinical setting, so that was great.  I got to see all the typical problems kids have, like ear infections.  I learned something really valuable today, that sometimes the patient’s chief complaint isn’t necessarily the most important.  One child had scabies, but the bigger problem was the child’s left foot that clearly had cellulitis that needed surgical consult.  In the adult clinic, this woman had some constipation post-op, and as I was about to discharge her after giving her some medications, she tells me she’s had migraines for months.  I didn’t know much about how to assess of course (what does a rising second-year medical student know… nothing), so my preceptor helped with the exam.  We looked in her eyes, and she has what we think is papilledema, though we were unsure.  What was clear was that something was very off about her eyes.  She also has left-sided headaches, never on the right which makes us more suspicious.  Migraines, though people can experience them more on one side, will have pain on either side at some point.  What’s concerning is that papilledema is a sign of increased intracranial pressure, like from a mass or tumor in her brain.  She’d have to go to Port-au-Prince or the Dominican Republic to get a CT scan… likely not feasible for her.  We’re trying to get into contact with a neurologist or at least an ophthalmologist from Cap-Haitien to get a consult.

Another thing that only happens to me in Haiti: while I was in pediatrics, Dr. Early all of a sudden notices that there’s a little lizard (probably 5 inches) is on me.  I surprisingly didn’t really freak out but just tried to shake it off.  I just didn’t want it going inside my pants or something haha.

Today we were at Carrefour des Peres.  I collected 10 samples since it would be my only day of doing basically all my sampling at Carrefour.  I was walking around the town with one of the translators, Lumarc, and people were so excited for me to test their water.  Everyone wanted me to come to their household well that they share with their neighbors and for me to test it.  They’re all curious about the results of course.  The last half week I’m here, I’ll be making a handout to give to the dispensaires/clinics and community health agents that will explain what I found, and what people can do about it.  Hopefully I can make even a tiny difference, even if it’s localized to 4 villages.  A lot of these people have wells, and so they use buckets to get the water.  Here’s one of the wells, and unfortunately one of the buckets looked like this:

It’s little things like telling people they can’t keep buckets on the dirt, etc. that make a difference.  No matter how clean the well, if what you use to drink it is dirty, what’s the point?  There was another well where children were just drinking straight out of the bucket.  Ayyy….

I finished my water sampling about an hour early, so I went back to the clinic and it was crazy.  This mother could tell that I thought her baby was absolutely adorable, and so she motions for me to hold it.  Omg, I wanted to take the baby home.  Basically, I melted at his cuteness, giggling the entire time.  What would customs think if I just brought a Haitian baby back with me?

There’s also a school nearby, and all these sweet girls came up to us.  We had stickers, so we gave them out.  Somehow the heart stickers ended up on our faces instead haha, but they were all such sweethearts.  I showed them how to play Angry Birds on my phone, and one even called me pretty.  She’s too kind… in this dead heat as I sweat profusely, this is the least attractive I think I’ve ever been.

Afterwards, we went to Children of the Promise which is an infant care center.  Most of the children are under 2, though there are a few that are older.  Unfortunately when we got there, most of the children were sleeping, so we didn’t get a chance to play with them.  BUT THEY HAD NORMAL DOGS!!!  All of us were so excited to play with dogs that definitely did not have rabies (they’re all from the US, belonging to the volunteers there).  Unlike here where I dodge all the dogs...

It’s very self-sufficient, including getting the majority of its power via solar panels:

Tomorrow marks the 3 week mark, home in a month!  And for the usual, nonexciting things in my life: I continue to be bitten by mosquitoes, and food dream #3: Chinese food.  I still don’t get why I keep dreaming about foods I very rarely eat.


  1. I love reading your posts. Congrats on the IRB approval--that ish is a pain to get. Whoottt!! Also, you with that little boy--the cutest! <3 Miss you baby girl. Glad you are enjoying and learning so much

  2. Download Angry Birds 2 for your mobile (Works on Android & iOS)