Friday, May 14, 2010
This afternoon, the trauma patient that we saw three days ago returned for an evaluation. Although she still has some difficulty opening her eyes she is still a healthy little girl. She really bonded with Shelby whom she remembered when she was in the ER.
Later on I accompanied Lynn from the Ukiah team over to the Pediatrics unit. It is situated outside of the main hospital building just to the right of the main entrance. Hospital Adventiste is actually one main building surrounded by several clinics only reachable from outside. Some of them have been setup after the earthquake.
As we make our way outside, the front steps are surrounded with many young children, translators and other people. The children approach as if they know you. One boy keeps referring to me as Dr. Joe. I find it very funny and innocent, so i don't correct him. A majority of these kids are orphans with no other place to turn. They plead and beg for you to give them basics things like flashlights or water bottles. If you offer money, they become sad as it is of no value to them.
Later in the afternoon, I again meet up with my friend Sam for another excursion into Port Au Prince. A little weary of the weather conditions as rain looks to be setting in, i grab a plastic bag for my camera. He runs a little late so I make my way outside the front gate of the hospital. The entrance connects to a busy street with various beverage and fried corn vendors. Discharged patients, some with crutches or wound wraps, wait across the street for a ride back to home, if they have one. Children and teens wander past in school uniforms and chat with each other with jovial grins and laughter. I start to become a little more worried as Sam is running late. Traffic in Port Au Prince is terrible.
Finally, from the right I see the forrest green Suzuki SUV with various decals, a cracked windshield and bald tires speed up the hill towards me. It is customary in Haiti to deliver curbside service for your guests. I did not know this rule as I naively ran across the street to get in the car only to watch him make a U turn right back to where I was standing. Embarrassed, I pile in to the car as he introduces me to his brother and cousin. They both happily and cordially move to the back seat to allow me to sit in the front. The kind of hospitality that occurs rarely when I am back home.
Our journey starts through Port Au Prince and winds up through the other side of town. It is just before sunset and the light is breathtaking. The scenes from the passenger window are even more. As the Kompa music blares from the blown speaker just below my right knee which is smashed against the glove box, I look out onto the hill to watch the dusk light cascade across the slope. The storm clouds cast a heavy shadow in between the soft glow of dusk while concrete buildings mold the landscape. People flood the street in droves. The air is thick and dusty.
We make our way through Port Au Prince and up to another town just on the outskirts. I was beginning to think it was spared most of the heavy damage until I look over and see and large building pancaked completely on itself. The floors look like a stack of documents. Less than a block later, another building collapse, this time it almost appears to be in frozen animation, tilted half on its side with each floor visible from the street and anchored in a pile of rubble. We get further up the hill and Sam points out another building. It is what used to be a shopping mall, with buildings connected and pieced together much like a modern condominium or apartment complex in the states. The roof line resembles the stock market index, with fluctuating degrees of collapse. Sam tells me he almost died in that building, as he was inside at the time of the quake.
Just as the sun dips below the horizon we head past the UN headquarters and US Embassy. They are literally across the street from one and other. I start to get a little worried i will not get back in time and he tells me we are on the way. We move back towards Port Au Prince as the day quickly turns to night. Every few blocks people have set tires on fire. The traffic is still very heavy and despite the darkness people are out in abundance. I begin to wonder where some of these people sleep each night.
Finally, we arrive back at the hospital to a slightly worried staff. However, the mood lightens quickly as plans are made to head out to dinner for our final night in Haiti.