My first patient

The moment I arrived at the hospital, one of the surgeons approached me and asked, “What should we do about this patient?” He held up an X-ray and led me to the patient.

Vivienne, a nine-year old girl who presented with cough, fever and difficulty breathing, was not doing well. She had a large collection of pus next to her lung.

After a significant amount of talking the plan over with colleagues, we decided to surgically open her chest and drain the fluid. This was not a benign procedure and could cause fatal problems. But she needed to have it done.

As she was wheeled to the operating room, one of our tests returned; she was HIV positive. It will be a surprise to the family. Unfortunately, it was not for us.

She just finished her operation as is recovering well. The surgeon took off 300 ml of pus and her lung has already begun to re-expand.

In a while I need to break the news to the family about the HIV. It is always hard to tell a mother that her child has a deadly disease. It is equally hard to then say, “You and your partner may have it as well.”


2 Responses to “My first patient”

  1. Tim Z Falconer Says:

    Thank you for sharing this story Chris. What is the state of HIV medication distribution in Haiti at this point? I’ve recently learned that a family friend from my childhood is a well-known HIV-AIDS policy worker. You both do terribly important work. I hope you’re well. The shared house sounds great. -tzf

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