A First-time Volunteer Story

This is my first trip to Haiti. Just getting here was a test of my commitment and endurance. The September team was to leave for Haiti on September 9th. However, Irma got in our way. She shut down the Miami airport and we were unable to leave the US for Haiti. We made another attempt on Tuesday, only to be canceled again. I think all of us were frustrated and discouraged but we regrouped. Only eleven of our 21 member team made the trip. We departed on September 16th arriving safely at the clinic on Sunday.

My first view of Haiti was the ride to the clinic through Port Au Prince. I knew there was extreme poverty but nothing prepared me for what I saw and how people live.

Cyvadier is a beautiful location and FOTCOH is fortunate to serve people from here. The view of the ocean is spectacular. The clinic is well organized and functions very efficiently.

I am a nurse, who has not practiced at the bedside for many years. I was assigned to triage. I was thankful, that I was able to quickly get up to speed and keep up with the workload. Basic nursing assessment must be like idling a bike; you never forget it. This mighty team of eleven, along with our Haitian physicians and interpreters saw 264 patients today.

The people are joyous, although they have so little. Many of the people I saw today were adults with diabetes or hypertension or both. About halfway, through the day I began to realize how much older people of a given age appear, as compared to the same age in the US.

The children are beautiful. The mothers dress them in their best clothes to see the doctor. Considering how hot and humid it is and how far they travel, many by foot, it is amazing how well behaved the children are. In fact, no one complains about waiting in line. They are grateful for anything we can do for them.

We saw one newborn who was just recently born prematurely to a 15-year-old mother. No NICU here. I saw a little girl with a burn under her arm. She was so good while we examined her and got her history.

Tonight at dinner, we were reflecting on the improvement we see in our patients with diabetes and hypertension. The patients are compliant for the most part. We see fewer strokes. The patient teaching regarding taking medication has done a lot to improve the patient’s compliance.

There are ailments the patient will list in triage. Many things for which we simply cannot provide help due to the limited resources we have. As one of the providers stated so well tonight ” but what we do give them is love”. The people are so grateful for any little thing we can do for them.

What do we receive from the people we see here at the clinic. They teach us so many lessons. Gratitude, joy, simplicity, pride, respect, and faith. Despite the lack of material things, there is something special here in Haiti. I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it.

-Sue Wozniak