It was an incredible culture shock to arrive in Haiti…the heat is intense and oppressive, there is poverty everywhere, rubble left from the quake, and the constant begging from the people are only a few of the first impressions we had.
We attended church on Sunday am and experienced awesome Spirit-empowered worship and preaching (though we could understand little), the entire team was moved by the intensity of the worship and the sincerity of the Haitian Christians.
The first few days we visited three orphanages, one Foursquare. We set up medical clinics in them and saw a number of very interesting cases. One of the most common things is eczema/impetigo. Allergic eczema is never treated so that it easily becomes infected, and we saw a number of children and adults with open draining sores on various parts of the body, esp. legs and arms. Another common finding was wheezing and pneumonia. Though we could not get a specific diagnosis, we treated with steroids and antibiotics, which were mostly liquid. We were only able to provide about 2-3 doses of medicine because of limited time and access to the orphanages. One baby was very sick with dehydration, failure to thrive, pneumonia, wheezing, poor suck, and lethargy. We treated with antibiotic and steroid and she did get better for a while, but we don’t know the outcome because we were unable to transport her to a hospital.
The Foursquare Orphanage was well kept, the children were generally more healthy and we were able to leave meds for the children with ear infection and wheezing, as well as steroid creams for the eczema. The staff was committed to giving the meds.
One evening I came down with heat exhaustion and one of our team members was ill with heat illness for the majority of the week. Another team member had “heat edema” which is caused by vasodilatation of the lower limbs and leakage of fluid into the tissue. After we got home we looked it up and sure enough…heat edema. Treatment is ice and elevation, which are difficult to accomplish in Haiti. We highly recommend that teams drink not only water, but probably should have 1-2 bottles of Gatorade or another oral hydration drink daily to prevent heat illness.
The Haitian people are a very strong-willed and fiercely independent people, most appeared wary of Americans, but warmed up once they knew what we were doing there. They are very needy medically and spiritually. It is an overwhelming feeling but we can only do our part and allow God to do the rest.
We took our own equipment, stethoscope, otoscopes, BP cuff, some bandages and some meds, like Cipro and Bacterim. Actually, teams should take their own stuff, do not expect it to be available anywhere in Haiti, and the hospitals are in short supply. We recommend injectable antibiotics, syringes, needles, liquid Albuterol, nebulizers and Albuterol inhalation solution, steroids (liquid, tabs, and creams), medicated shampoos, lice treatments (Rid/Nix), and gauze and bandages. Also valuable are antibiotics in liquid, caps, and tabs, and antifungal creams (both vaginal and topical), worm meds (like Vermox), and Pedialyte. We would recommend Rocephin, Ampicillin, Bicillin, Methacillin, and Zithromax both liquid and tabs. I have no idea if we saw any AIDS, or TB, but it is a definite possibility.
Some of the cases we saw were: a one month old with otitis media and fever; a two-year old with bloody diarrhea for three months, abdominal bloating, and fever; a 13 y/o girl with a crushed upper right chest after a concrete block hit her in the quake (untreated for 8 months); several patients with heart murmurs, some high blood pressure; a 7 month old with a cough from birth; wheezing and otitis media; malnutrition; worms; older patients with cataracts; multiple cases of eczema and impetiginized eczema with the lesions draining pus.
If you are sending a medical team, have a “game plan” for setting up your clinic, plenty of light (bring your own), plenty of fluid for each member, a triage person or two if possible, and fans would be a great addition to the environment. We finally got very efficient on the last 2 days…but we still managed to see 250 patients in 4 days. The need is so overwhelming though that this is only a minute drop in a sea of illness and pain! Make sure you have intercessors in prayer for individuals and the team as a whole 24×7 because it is crucial to the success of your team.
More memories of our Haiti Mission:
- No driving rules (essentially), traffic a nightmare, motorcycles all over!
- Bad roads even before the quake.
- Houses collapsed & partially collapsed, rubble everywhere, tents on top of rubble.
- American fashion like jeans, tee-shirts, tank-tops, shorts, bright colors, cell phones (Digicel Co.), mp3 players.
- Food: bananas, papayas, pineapples, rice, Haitian spaghetti, chicken (lots of chicken), beans, fish, goat, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, plantain, oatmeal, and oatmeal/cornmeal mix (forget the Haitian name), Coke, potatoes, and water (Culligan only please).
- Heat, heat, heat! So oppressive like a heavy spirit sucking out your energy.
- Gas is $6/gal. for Diesel and $9/gal. for regular.
- Kids will be kids…playing laughing, smiling, babies very cute!!
- Tap-taps everywhere–the Haitian version of a taxi is a small pickup with benches and a cover on the truck bed. Holds 15 Haitians, 10 blan (us), but usually carried 20+ Haitians with luggage on top (or whatever).
- Men with guns guarding gas stations, businesses, and hotels. May be UN, government, or just hired guards.
- Bathrooms? From tree to flushing toilet…most are not in good shape!
- No privacy! People are everywhere! It seems that people congregate on the side of the road.
- The name of Jesus is used as a slogan on tap-taps, buses, and advertisements as a way to draw customers, esp. Americans. BUT, the Haitian Christians are a passionate, dedicated, loving force in Haiti and capture your support with their need and sincerity!
- The countryside is beautiful with green vegetation, trees, “golf course” grass, beaches with beautiful ocean BUT trash is everywhere reflecting the battered and beaten down people!
We will be going back much more prepared this next time! Blessing and praise to our God, He loves the Haitians and wants us to continue to go and minister to them! The Word we received for Haiti is Ezekiel 36:33-36. Please Pray!