I had one of the best weekends of my life. I explored Haiti with mom, auntie carine, and new friends – Endrick, Pierrot, Pascale, Valerie, and Josay. First beginning on Saturday we took a 6 hour ride to Jacmel. Driving in Haiti is BANANAS. I have seen 2 street lights since I have been here, there are no stop signs. It is a complete free for all and I am suprised I have not seen more accidents on the side of the road. In any case, once we escaped the city madness and traffic, it was the most beautiful scene I have ever seen and pictures cannot do it justice (feel free to peruse below). We rode all the way up the mountains of Haiti to the beach at Jacmel, Raymond Limbe. The water was so beautiful and perfectly clear. We ate lunch there- fish and conch that was freshly caught from the sea- and then went to Petit Goave. This is my favorite city thus far. It is very quaint and homey. It wasn’t as populous as Port-Au-Prince and Tabarre. It was quiet. We stopped by a hospital and looked around and then toured a nearby hotel. These types of establishments are very different in Haiti, but beautiful in their own respect. Due to the distance traveled, we got home very, very late. I stayed up telling my friends at the house back in Tabarre all about my adventures and show them photos.
Today we went to Furcy. Another ride up a beautiful mountain on an unpaved, rocky, narrow, road. Furcy was absolutely amazing, we ate and drank at Ranch Le Montcel, a restaurant on a balcony. We then toured the 13 acres of land. There were animals, fruits, vegetables, and cabins there. They are completely self sustained given there is no easy access to markets or a city (I.e the several hour ride up the side of a mountain on a road made of rocks). It was about 50 degrees up on the montain which was a nice break from the 95 degree weather in Tabarre. My new friends are great, they are young and similar in age with me so I am hoping to get to explore Haiti more over the next few weeks with them!
Sorry about the late entry, I wrote it earlier but there was no power, so to keep entertained we danced Kompa in the backyard (or I learned how to dance Kompa in the backyard rather) and talked. It is so beautiful here when there is no power. It is so quiet outside and you can see every star in the sky. Zetwal. So glorious, I could sit out there all night.
Today, I skipped rounds to begin my day bright and early in the archives so as to not get into the same dilemma I had yesterday. I got through about 10 charts and entered as much data as I could before heading up to see MadamePhilippo (head of nursing) to help me out. She sat with me and went chart by chart for the 10 I went through to help me extract more data and clarify things. The acronyms in Creole are what get me. Also the handwritten charts can be challanging. So it took no time at all sitting with her and discussing the charts and having her clarify things for me. I was able to gain some insight into how they manage patients. For one, I came across several charts of pre-term deliveries but the patients did not recieve Magnesium for neuroprotection (to decrease risk of cerebral palsy). I was able to speak to Madame Philippo about this and she had no idea this was even being performed. It is apparently expensive though so this practice will likely not change. We spent a lot of time discussing the charts and I would teach her names of disease processes in English and she would explan it in Creole. For instance, I kept coming across, PAW, in the chart, apparently this is the active stage of labor. Would have never have guessed that in a million years. So hopefully I get faster going through the charts.
I am easily distracted so once I finished speaking with Madame Phillippo, I went to check on the patient from yesterday and the fetal echo she was awaiting. To my suprise, the cardiology team got to her first thing this morning to perform the echo. Seeing the report was my next task. I went back to the cardiology department waited for them to finish speaking to a patient and verbally asked for the report… IT WAS NORMAL! Great news. I trecked back up to maternity to let the nurse and doctor know. No patient’s were in labor so I met my friend Sasha in the peds ER (l’urgent in creole) to complete my consult. It was for a 11 year girl who came in with seizures, right sided paralysis, and vaginal pain/itching. I got a history about her gynecological complaints and completed a very limited exam since she was viriginal. I walked the specimen to the lab to look at it under the microscope and diagnosed her with BV. It was very satisfying since this was a quick and easy thing I could perform to greatly impact this patient.
Next I met Dr. Coulanges. This was the second time we met, but he is very nice. He also speaks some English which is always a plus. He has been working at St. Damien for 1 year but has been out practicing for three years. I did a c-section with him for a woman at 37 weeks with twins breech/transverse. My new word of the day, marasa. TWINS. We discussed the differences between Haiti and the US at great length and even exchanged some comittee opinions. He is also very tall so I operated on my tippy toes.
On my way back up, Rene called me to show me an electronic fetal monittor that was donated to the maternity department. This was such an amazing gift and something they really need. This machine is like the ones we have at home. It has pulse oximeter, tocometer, EFM, and also does EKG. It can hook up an IUPC/FSE as well. The caveat is I have to do an in service with the maternity department and give progress reports to the donors. Happy to do it if it means they are able to better care for their patients. Afterwards, I brought the machine to the maternity department and screamed, “Madame Phillippo, Jwaye Nwel!!” That means, “Merry Christmas!!” She was so thrilled when I came holding the new Electronic Fetal Monitor. I began taking all the wires out and explaining everything. She nodded and smiled throughout, but when I got to the IUPC/FSE (intrauterine pressure catheter and fetal scalp electrode) she looked puzzled. These are internal monitors you can use to measure the strength of contractions (IUPC) and fetal heart rate (FSE). Madame Phillippo was amazed and had never seen this before. They currently dont have the means to begin using them but I hope they can in the future.
By the time I got back to archives, it was 3 pm and they closed an hour later. Hopefully next week I can really power through the charts.
In any case, IT’S THE WEEKEND. Excited to spend it exploring with Mom and Auntie Carine!
Dr. Coulanges, Rene, and I before we did a c-section
Electronic fetal monitor donated to the maternity department, pretty dope!
Some chickens I found roaming near the OR. Im pretty sure everyone thought I was crazy, I HAD TO TAKE A PICTURE.
Today I finally began to delve into my research, unfortunately, there was so much going on clinically, it was very late in the day, and the medical records department closed 1 hour later. I was only able to struggle getting through two charts, partially. I am going to need some help. My research, fetal growth restriction, also known as retard de croissance in Creole ( I titled this entry this because I keep forgetting the name in Creole !!!!) is a condition where the estimated fetal weight is less than the 10th percentile for the gestational age. It is very common here at St. Damien as this is a high risk population with a lot of medical comorbidities like hypertensive disorders and infections. Tomorrow, I am going to start my day in the archives department so I can ensure I am able to get as much done as humanly possible since this week was a trial. The archives department has been so incredibly helpful and flexible with my research. I write down the charts I need and they pull them one by one. I will be going through thousands of charts, I have to think of a good gift to give them.
My day started off with rounds as usual, Dr. Jean was on today as well as another very nice doctor whose name slips me. Dr. Jean speaks some English, so she was able to fill in the gaps a little on rounds and I could finally ask questions I have been wanting to ask but haven’t been able to translate all week. One of the patient’s has a fetal cardiac abnormality and since the Gift of Life (cardiac surgeons here for a week) team is here, I brought it upon myself a few days ago to “consult” them. Consulting teams here is not a page, it’s a face to face discussion with other team members and asking them to come assess your patient. In any case, I went to the PICU and asked the team if they could see her before the leave as this anomolay will require emergent surgery at time of delivery and I can speak English unlike the maternity team upstairs. The cardiac team said they would see her earlier that day, but got slammed and it was unable to be completed. So naturally at rounds this morning, everyone looked to me, the liason to the american cardiology team, for the update on this patient and I broke the news that it wasn’t able to be completed. I returned today to speak to them again. After a wild goose chase, I made it to one of the cardiologists and asked if he could perform the echo and some counselling. He ASSURED me it would be completed before the end of the day tomorrow. I am holding him to this!! I was also consulted today, by my friend in the pediatrics ED. There is a young girl with a gynecological issue so I offered my assistance and I was summoned.
I spent a lot of time in the abandonment room today. Speaking to the nurses, hearing the childrens stories, just holding them, dancing with them, and reading some stories. We even went on a walk with one of the wheelchair bound children so she could get some fresh air. This was my favorite part of the day. They were so upset when it was time to go, one of the children would just start crying each time you tried to put her down.
Next, I did two c-sections. First, the patient gets wheeled down to the first floor on a gerney to the salle de operation. You have to change your scrubs (even though they are sterile and you have been wearing your white coat) once you arrive to the OR. Haiti is very dusty so they try to best ensure a sterile environment.Next she is given spinal anesthesia and prepped with betadine and draped with sterile sheets. No marking pen, just cut. Nothing like the wasteful US! Resources are scarce, nothing is wasted. Every suture is used in it’s entirety. And, THERE IS NO BOVIE :O . You grab the bleeder with a hemostat and…pray?? Idk, crush injury causes hemostasis. Thankfully instrument names are universal, that made it easier. Otherwise, it was pretty standard. The instrument tables are also much more concise, there are no extra instruments, it is the bare essentials that you need to safely perform a cesarean section.
Lastly, MOMMY IS HERE!! She arrived this afternoon and I am so excited to share some of my time here with her. I can’t wait to show her the hospital and my friends! My friends at the house already love her, they have been asking all week when she was getting in, etc. She’s kinda the best. Can’t wait to explore Haiti with her this weekend (You too Auntie Carine)! She is also blown away by how well I speak creole. I guess that is what happens when there is no other option to communicate haha.
Today was a long day. Sorry for the late entry, I am just getting home. First things first, I was involved in 2 deliveries today which was very satisfying but also perplexing. It is very interesting delivering in Haiti and very different. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet but hopefully I can characterize it better as I do more deliveries but it is very simple. Literally 3 women lined up in a delivery room, naked, screaming in pain. There are no epidurals, these women are champs. They begin pushing at fully dilated, with intermittent dop tones. There is no doula or coaching, no family in the room. You push until you get the baby out. Occasionally the midwives would have the mom change positions during pushing depending on the fetal position (I.e OP), I paid close attention to this. After the birth, the nurse leaves mom to tend to the baby. This can take some time. There are no vitals for the baby, if the baby is rigorous it is thought to be healthy. Afterwards the placenta delivers and they are assessed for bleeding and repairs. The family is not allowed in at any point. The patient goes to the bathroom to shower before getting moved to postpartum.
I made some more friends (too many to count so I’ll just mention a few key who will recur) a few work on the board for St. Damien Hospital and NPH (the founding organization for St. Damien Hospital). We went to lunch and I was able to exchange ideas with them regarding the maternity department which was very exciting. I also spent the day with Renee, she’s a retired nurse from Seattle who is very involved with St. Damien and contributes money to the hospital. She spent the day at the maternity ward as well so we mutually gained from this partnership. I translated and helped incorporate her into the OB team while she showed me around and introduced me to a lot of influential people around the Hospital. One of the places she brought me was “The abandonment room” it’s a place where people drop off infants and children they don’t want or who have disabilities. This broke my heart. Literally dozens of the cutest little kids who have no one to love them. I found myself frequently walking past this room throughout the day wanting to hold one particular baby in a crib in the back. Maybe tomorrow I’ll muster up the strength to go in and hold him. I want to love on them. The realities of poverty are hard everywhere, but in Haiti they are almost inexplicable.
There is also a group here who comes three times a year to St. Damien to perform cardiac surgeries. They do 2 a day for a week which is incredible, if only they could do more or stay longer. #wishful-thinking. Since they’re here there is a blood shortage so through the Red Cross I donated blood at the hospital. During a tour with Rene, I met a pediatric resident in the peds ED of Haitian descent as well. Sasha. She’s here for a month and is a third year pediatrics resident, hope I can get to know her more.
So much to talk about today guys, long post with lots of pictures comin’ at ya!!
First off, I was attacked twice in the last 24 hrs — first was by a cat sized roach that was in my room, next was by a dog that tried to bite me. They were both close calls but I got out unscathed thanks to my stealth. Fear not friends I am OK.
Secondly, in petty news, remember the new hairdo? Yeahhh old habits die hard. I’m back to my old hairstyle thanks to the 95 degree weather and the discomfort with the braids. It was mission impossible rushing to blow dry and straighten it as soon as the power came back on but the deed was completed and I and a much happier camper.
Third, today was my second day and I must say the nurses are amazing here. When I first started residency, my mom today me, “Always be nice to the nurses and they will take care of you.” Well this is even more true here. They are my go to people and are so incredibly invested in my project and what I am trying to accomplish. They know everything about all the patients and are so incredibly resourceful. I attended rounds this morning which was amazing and also challenging mostly because of the language barrier. I tried to keep up and follow but some words are just completely new to me. In any case I’m sure it will get easier. It was fascinating to see the difference in patient management and constantly being asked , “what would you do?” Its also interesting to see what diseases they’re managing here– things I’ve never had to really tackled like severely malnourished patients (nausea vomiting of pregnancy does not even compare) or parasites. I’m excited to go back tomorrow.
Next, I went to the archives to begin sifting through charts, this will be a momentous task. It doesn’t seem like there is any organization to the records so I’m interested to see how we tackle this aspect of my agenda. I’m confident it will all work out though 👍🏾.
Next Dr. Maxis and I went to petionville to have lunch (pictures attached). It was nice to leave tabarre and see somewhere else. Then we went shopping on the streets of petionville which is HUGE. There are a lot of pickpocketers and it can be dangerous, thankfully we had two phenomenal drivers to ensure we weren’t taken advantage of and negotiate all prices. (I even got a free bracelet). Dr. Maxis was pretty good too, she got us free magnets. In any case I got gifts for my 19 sisters at home (fear not my queens).
To end this post I want to mention my new friends. Madame and monsieur Franklin who I sit on the porch and have long conversations about life, love, and the future. I am so thankful they have welcomed me into their home so seamlessly. Next magdelene and rose. They are the hands around the house and they keep everything running. Rose cooks the most amazing meals and has everything prepared for my breakfast and lunch before I even come downstairs in the morning . She also saved me from the dog that was going to eat me for breakfast. Magdelene is an angel , she’s tough but I can tell she’s a softie. She’s funny and very kind. She helped me take out my braids, then washed my hair in the sink since there was no power. She then rushed in when the power came on at 10 pm to help blow dry and straighten my hair “tout suite!”. She saved me from the griot fed roach (without laughing too hard at me) and even adds minutes to my Haiti phone for me because she knows I don’t know how. On my first day I was very nervous and she stopped what she was doing to give me a pep talk and tell me to just be myself. No truer words were ever spoken. Dina and Thomas (who says he loves me but apparently has a girlfriend in Florida- men are so fickle even at the age of 10!) thank you for keeping me constantly entertained. Every morning before my alarm even goes off I have gotten at least 5 knocks on the door from my friends- asking how I slept, if I need anything, what time I am going to do my hair, or just to show me their outfits before school because they know I find it A D O R A B L E! And Dr. Maxis, I can’t thank you enough for all of your guidance, advice, and literally walking me through my first few days here. You’re the best XOXO.
Today was my first day at St. Damien Hospital. I met the doctors, midwives, anesthesiologists, and nurses I will be working with over the next 5 weeks and ironed out my clinical and research responsibilities. We’ll see how this all works out in practice but it seems like I will be able to help out a little bit everywhere. St. Damien Hospital is a pediatric Hospital in Tabarre that also works as a referral Hospital for women with high risk pregnancies. They have very strict rules as to the women they admit here as there is no room for the routine laboring patients, instead they save these resources for the women and infants who really need it. We had a tour of the maternity ward which seems pretty similar to the L&D at stony brook and other Hospitals in the US- antepartum, postpartum, labor, and a delivery suite. There’s also a triage because that is inescapable no matter what the country. So patients get triaged. If they have a high risk pregnancy issue they manage it and try to give the fetus as much time as possible until delivery (I.e antepartum). There is a laboring suite where women stay until they are 8-9 cm and then the delivery room is for women right before they deliver. There are 6 beds on postpartum, 4 to labor, about 4 to deliver (rough estimates in working off my memory!). There are 2 ORs and a recovery area as well. Women stay for 24 hrs after a routine vaginal delivery (our patients back home would never agree to that!) and there is one nurse for the entire postpartum. Unfortunately today was a sad day as one of the obstetricians Dr. Lemaire is moving to the US and the staff will greatly miss him. It was very emotional and you can tell how much of an imprint he is leaving behind at St. Damien. Tomorrow is a day to start looking through the chart archives to begin collecting data and getting comfortable with doing so!
&there is no power again so this is my current situation 😉
I MADE IT! Survived the toussaint l’ourverture airport and all the drama associated with entering the country of Haiti (I’m already dreading what will take place going back 😭) ! So thankful Dr. Maxis was here to help me navigate the system, she’s been the real MVP. I’ve made it to my home for the next five weeks and got all settled. Along the way I made 2 new friends, Dina and Thomas, they’re two very intelligent 10 year olds and really sweet. I promised them I would give them a shout out on my website so here it is! (Explaining what a website is was particularly difficult for me in creole) They helped me unpack which entailed lifting every item out of my suitcase and asking, “what is this?” Explaining tampons was particularly interesting. They gave me a full tour of the grounds about 3 times (mostly because I still keep gettint lost) and are helping me with my creole while I teach them English! So basically that took form in me having to read an entire children’s book in creole and them learning the words couch, butterfly, and window. -_- I’m clearly more invested in this language emersion, but they say my creole is very good and I’ll be a pro in a week. The Franklin’s are great and everyone is very nice and accodating to my western self. I feel like I am at home. The no access to anything is tough but I’ve painted my nails (twice), played with my hair, and studied. So I guess I found ways to keep busy!
THE TIME HAS FINALLY COME! After 2 years of preparing, literature reviews, skype calls, meetings, a lot of global health funds (shout out to SBUH OBGYN GLOBAL HEALTH!!), IRB approval, haitian ministry submission, simulations of emergencies in low resource settings, immunizations, coordinating with my haitian family (shout out to the Franklin’s who are hosting me!!!). I AM SO HAPPY TO FINALLY BE HOPPING ON A FLIGHT TO HAITI TOMORROW MORNING!!! It’s been a long time coming and I have so many people to thank for helping make this possible, I don’t even know where to begin. What I will do is gain as much as I can from this experience and more importantly G I V E as much as I can during my short time in Haiti.
Doubly as exciting is that since I am the first global health fellow at Stony Brook, I am paving the way for the amazing ladies who will be following begind in the years to come (SHOUT OUT TO VAI AND DOREEN!). I am nervous, I am worried I won’t even be able to read the charts in creole (or french whatever the nurses document in), but I will do my best to collect as much information as humanly possible to give back something to this hospital.
So that’s all good and well from a work standpoint, however I had some real personal concerns prior to my departure. Like for one, HOW WILL I DO MY HAIR?? Silly I know, but hey, #blackgirlproblems. To combat this, I have braided my hair (ouch!) so that the lack of electricity does not cause a major hair catastrophe. I just don’t want you guys to be too suprised if you see me sporting a new look in my posts from here on out ;).
Anywho, I was already forewarned that there is no electricity where I will be staying at the moment so this may be my last post for a bit, I will make sure to document everything so I can update you all as soon as possible~~
6 days! So, for the first time EVER, I have began packing early. Crazy. I’m usually such a procrastinator with stuff like that but I don’t want to miss anything! I played around with redcap (app for data collection), picked up my malaria prophylaxis, and packed! (Check out the suitcase designated for snacks ;)). I got my passport, some books, malpractice insurance, health insurance, and my creole dictionary! Probably should’ve flipped through it a little more but it’s cool, we’ll do this live!
SN: check out my menu bar with helpful links and resources I’ve used along the way (I’ll keep adding) and photos.
I have never really done this before but hey, I’ve got some pretty great ideas! Why not share them with the world :). As many of you already know, through the Stony Brook Hospital Women’s Global Health Track, I have been given the opportunity to travel to Haiti for 5 weeks to work at St. Damien Hospital and conduct a research project. I am very excited, I have never spent this much time abroad and am also super pumped to practice and serve the women in Haiti. I will try to be good about this and blog regularly (never really been the journalling type and definitely expect some typos). Pending internet connection, I will keep you all posted on my experiences and challanges faced. STAY TUNED!! I leave April 8th!
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill