Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Previous Posts Contain Nothing Concerning my Trip to Africa. They were Created from Boredom and My Own Nonsensical Rambling. Read at Your Own Risk.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eating, Living, Breathing the Madness

So everyone wants to know about my personal conditions down in Haiti; what was that typical day like?

The Food
Gross: by no means was I expecting a feast to be laid out for me, but I wasn't anywhere close to prepared for the spread I was provided.
Breakfast: Well I never actually got to eat breakfast since it was almost always served when I was right in the middle of tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to give my 16 patients their 20 antibiotics in less than 30 minutes with one EMT and 2 med students at my disposal. But was, I often observed, a delightful chicken noodle soup complete with two different kinds of noodles, canned tuna fish, bananas, and Vienna sausages floating on top. Somehow the dry, stale granola bar didn't seem so bad.

Lunch: By far the most superior of the meals, when you could get it, consisted of rice and beans, and a meat. No fresh vegetables, ever, for 17 days straight.

Dinner: The most inconsistent meal of the day. One could expect anything from "spaghetti" (noodles and ketchup), to a bowl of meat, to my personal favorite a soup made with tomato sauce, sardines, and cubed up canned spam. Not that I really got to indulge in thesedelectable treats. I had a talent for arriving in the kitchen just in time to see the final remains get scooped onto someone elses's plate. Luckily, I can forage for food with the best of them. So from our little pantry I created macaroni and cheese from noodles and cannedArabic processed cheese. I made fried egg sandwiches, and pastas. Just try to imagine me making a fried egg with a spatula the size of my face in an iron pan large enough for me to sit in. Comical.
I like to think I got the best spot in the place. The living quarters were in the actual clinic on the second floor. There the room were set up like dormitories. We had to share a bed with someone from night shift, and thankfully my bed partner had the foresight to steal the closet the first night. This was beneficial for several reasons.
1. Perfect means to block out the unreal amounts of snoring these people emitted.
2. You could essentially have your own room with the ability to close the door and read or change without having to schlep to the bathrooms.
3. I doubled as a storage closet for all the food I foraged. I slept with a pineapple for three nights straight waiting for it to ripen.

Free Time
There was none. The few hours I managed to escape I went into Haiti to "help" set up a water purification system in one of the refugee camps. Ask me later if you care to here about this fiasco.
A few nights when I wasn't bone tired and was able to muster up enough socializing steam to carry me out for beers on the roof or sitting in the dirt outside the convenient store. Not my most glamorous moments considering I brought nothing but scrubs to wear.
Ha! I did mange a shower occasionally, which wasn't terriably enjoyable considering the hot water wasn't super reliable. I shared the bathroom with at least 12-14 other people, so I would have to get up about an hour before I needed to be downstairs and working if I wanted a chance at the bathroom.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Beautiful Nightmare

I went to Haiti, saved some lives, and found out a whole hell of a lot about myself that I didn't realize. When you are immersed in a culture so alien from your own it lays bare all the asinine little things that plague your life; you figure out what really is important. And you find out how powerful you are and all the other human spirits are that swirl around you every single day.

I received my phone call from Sherri late on a Tuesday night after weeks of avoiding the media hype surrounding the earthquake in Haiti. I felt helpless and unused when I saw pictures of people who I felt I could tangibly make their lives better. Sherri asked me if I could be ready to leave the country by 6am Friday evening; I didn't give it a second thought. Well, that is until I spoke to my mother, who scared the pants off of me with her frantic concerns of rabid bats, white slave trade (what!!?!), and bed bugs.

Despite these warnings I found myself rushing off to take my test I had put my life on hold for several days sooner than I had planned. I found myself packing my bag, filling my malaria medicine prescription and brushing up on my adult disaster relief nursing skills, which I had roughly a 0% knowledge base. I found myself realizing hours before I left that I had forgotten to tell anyone but my parents and my bosses that I was leaving. The feeling of nauseous, smothering, overwhelming fear of the unknown was always first and foremost in my mind.

"What am I thinking, I don't know a thing about adults, or emergency medicine, or rabid bats"

And yet, I got off the plane in Santo Domingo with all the faux zeal and confidence I could muster. My little team of three nurses met and sped off in a rickety little taxi to the Carey House Hotel; a quaint little B&B where the front desk boy will be more than happy to fetch you the list of local restaurant numbers that are held down by his hand gun/paper weight. We spent our first night in Latin America eating Chinese food out of cut up water bottles and homemade utensils.

The next morning our one contact in the DR agreed to take us to the local bus station as long as we handed over his coveted Wal-Mart brand tropical trail mix we were told to bring with us. We were herded off to the bus station and placed on the bus bound to Jimani, which included such things as live chickens, pushy sandwich peddlers, and some very lively Latin music. It was during this bus ride that I was finally able to accept my growing panic for what I was about to face and talk it through with my fellow nurse, Sharon. She assured me that even NICU nurse would be more than capable of handling what lay ahead.

Our welcome to The Buen Samaritan Clinic was warmer than any of us expected. I suppose they had hoped we were coming but had resigned themselves to the possibility that they may just have work without the nurses. My first impression of the clinic was positive; people seemed busy, but in control, and distracted, but enjoying themselves. But in the office I received my first really bad news. They were going to place me on day shift, but Sharon and Ann, my only support system, were to work on night shift. For the first time, of many, I told myself I wasn't here to make friends, but to work hard, and to do the very best I possibly could. So I threw my bag down, unpacked my meager nursing gear (most of which I lost before an hour passed) and headed down the stairs for my "orientation." The orientation facade shattered 30 seconds later when a patient came in complaining of dizziness and fainting. I found myself being asked to get "orthos"; and what might those be, I wondered to myself. And could I please get a CBC and Chem 10's? The doctor might as well be speaking Greek at this point. hmmmm... I wonder how this lady would feel if I pricked her heel like my NICU babies to get lab work? Oh there is a lab that will draw blood for you? Excellent!! Oh, but they only speak Spanish, so you'll have to find someone who can interpret for you. WEll CRAP. Flash forward 8 hours of this crazy "chasing my own tail nursing," and that pretty much summed up day one for me.