I can’t believe it, but it’s already been a year! And I couldn’t be happier.
Yesterday afternoon, I was hanging out in the swimming pool at our new apartment. I was chatting with a 21 year-old kid about the NBA, Miami Heat and college hoops when I heard a screech from the other side of the pool. As I looked over, I saw our nanny frantically reaching for something. As I approached, I realized what happened: a young girl drowned in the pool and was laying on the bottom.
I quickly waded over. A young Haitian man reached down and grabbed her head and I took hold of her feet. We raced to the edge of the pool and placed her limp, blue body on the cement. I immediately checked for a pulse, found none and then gave two mouth-to-mouth breaths. I instructed the Haitian man to start chest compressions but, unfortunately, he did not know what to do. I yelled “Lisa!!!” at the top of my lungs and proceeded on my own.
Lisa arrived quickly and, within seconds, we had an effective, well coordinated resuscitation going. After a few more rounds of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15 and breathe and breathe we checked our little patient again. She was still blue with no pulse and had begun bleeding from her mouth. “This is not good”, I thought out loud.
However, we continued. After every breath, I wiped away her bloody vomit and we kept going.
Then, at about 4 minutes, I had trouble getting a breath in….. I pulled away and to my surprise, she had a little wimper followed by a shallow breath. Then another breath, this one deeper. Then another and she started to turn pink. Then, after about 60 seconds, she opened her eyes and started crying.
What a relief!
I looked up and realized a crowd had gathered. More than 30 faces were in shock, most with tears running down their cheeks.
After a little crowd control, we loaded our patient into a car and headed for the hospital. Before reaching the gates of the facility, the little girl was coherent and began talking like a normal little child.
It is amazing how simple Basic Life Support can save a life.
As I was just finishing a swim last evening, I felt a horrific pain on the left side of my body. I jumped out of the water, screamed a little, reached down to my left chest and felt an enormous jellyfish. I grabbed it forcefully threw it as far as I could.
As I stumbled to the shore, the pain intensified. It was so bad I could not think correctly. I felt my chest swelling and saw the redness spreading. I made my way to my apartment, opened the door and asked loudly for help. My friend John, Lisa and the nanny ran to my side.
Over the next hour, I paced back and forth, soaked myself in urine (unfortunately, not my own), showered in vinegar and spread shaving cream all over. I took motrin, an antihistamine, a benzo and dramamine.
Finally, after two hours, the pain decreased to a tolerable level.
The other day, Paul Farmer gave a webcast lecture about the state of pediatric care in Haiti and Rwanda. He discusses my St. Marc hospital a few times. If you are interested in seeing the talk, please go to the link below.
Things have not always worked out perfectly for me in Haiti. However, my luck may be changing. Within the past 24 hours, three nice things have happened:
-I went grocery shopping at the local store. When I returned home, I could not find a case of Gatorade. I figured one of the clerks forgot to pack it in my car so I promptly went back and told them about the missing items. Within minutes, they gave me another case. No questions asked. Unfortunately, a few hours after getting back home, I found the “missing” case. Our nanny placed it in the closet by accident. I went back to the store and thanked them for their great customer service (and paid them).
-We had a car lent to us. When we received it, the owner said it would take about two thousand dollars to get it in running order. Then we had a mechanic look at it….and…..he fixed it for 200 bucks.
-Two nurses from the hospital just showed up at our apartment with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It is a “Thank you” gift for our work.
It has been a long time since my last blog post. The last five months have been busy for a few reasons:
-I’ve often worked long hours at a US based children’s hospital. In order to get back to my family in Haiti as quickly as possible, I work long stretches of time. I recently finished 49 days in a row.
-Our adoption is moving along fairly quickly. This has kept us fairly busy with paperwork since late December.
-I have been finishing-up my documentary and started the distribution process. I’ve had a few initial screenings and have submitted it to a variety of film festivals. See the following link that was published for a recent hospital (non-public) event:
I am now back in Haiti and will start working at the hospital after my vacation ends. I plan to return to regular blogging.
Instead of writing an entry for my blog, I wrote one for my hospital’s. Please follow the link below to check it out:
Three weeks ago I was struggling to find basic supplies as chidren were dying of preventable diseases. I often felt as though I was working in the 1800s.
These days I work in an enormous children’s hospital. I care for girls with kidney transplants who go to school, have birthday parties, play sports and have boyfriends. I examine little boys who are recovering from extensive brain surgery that can walk and talk normally. I discharge teenagers with horrible heart disease that are still doing “normal teenage stuff”.
That is not all for the drastic changes! Many times per day, I walk past robots strolling the hallways delivering supplies to various departments. Yes, I am working side-by-side with little mechanical beings.
We’re not in Haiti anymore.
When I left Haiti on Christmas day, it was a sweltering 90 degrees. I wore shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. And I was still warm.
Today, as I walked home from my first day at work, the moisture on my mustache formed tiny sickles. I tired to answer my phone but I couldn’t get my fingers to work properly. It was so cold I fantasized about the hot, sweaty nights in Haiti.
Now, that’s cold.
Other than the frigid weather, I am enjoying myself. The hospital is beautiful and the people are wonderful. It’s going to be a fun ride!
On Christmas day, I said goodbye to my family and headed back to the United States. Leaving Lisa was hard. Leaving Tristan and Gaby was nearly impossible.
After an all-day itinerary, I arrived in Northern California. For the next week, my parents, brother (and his family), grandparents and I relaxed and ate. Not much else.
Last night I arrived in Boston and moved into my new apartment. It is “cozy” but fits my needs. I will start working tomorrow morning at a local Children’s hospital. I am excited to have medicines, equipment and staff.
So what’s the plan? I will work on-and-off in Boston for the next six months with trips to Haiti every 5-6 weeks to see the family. Then I will start working in Haiti again full-time in July. In other words, I’ve gotta pay the bills for now and then get back to international work in a few months.
I will continue to blog. Some will be about my experiences in Boston but many will be about my time in Haiti. I still have many stories to tell that will be better after some time for reflection.