Monday, Dec 13
We made it home safely (Sunday) night. The helicopter ride from Medor to Port-au-Prince on Saturday took only 15 minutes. It is 28.9 nautical miles. (It took us 8 ½ hours to make the trip by four-wheel-drive vehicle, then walking/mule riding.) We rode in a six-seat Cessna 337 from Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where we spent Saturday night. The American Airlines flights back to Ronald Reagan Airport (in Washington, D.C.) was relatively uneventful.
How wonderful to be home—hurray for showers and familiar food!
Here is a summary of the trip—both negatives and positives:
- We were not able to meet with Frantz Leger, the architect for the primary school.
- Three vehicles broke down trying to navigate the “road” to Medor.
- Because of the vehicle malfunctions, 20 boxes of medicines were left at Plasak, a seven-hour walk to Medor. These were needed for the clinic but were not delivered up the mountain. It was simply too far and too difficult.
- We ran out of over-the-counter medicines: Tylenol, vitamins, antacid. These medicines were the ones most commonly prescribed in the clinic.
- One adult and two children from the school died from cholera.
- One of the Remote Area Medical volunteers suffered heatstroke.
- There was political unrest, closing down the airport and prohibiting a drive to Port-au-Prince. The helicopter ride to Port-au-Prince and the small plane ride to the Dominican Republic were exciting and definitely safer than driving, but much more expensive that any of us had planned for.
- We were hungry most of the time. There was not enough food for so many extra visitors. But we should not complain about this. Haiti ties with Somalia as the hungriest country in the world; I’m told the average Haitian eats three meals per week. How can we complain about a few hunger pangs?
- The lack of running water is a definite negative. We could all smell our poor hygiene. The bathrooms were disgusting. But this is daily life for all the people of the area.
- Running a four-day medical clinic in this setting is like “(piddling) in the wind.” I wonder if it does any real good. To have a significant impact on health, the area needs more full-time health workers and more supplies.
But there were many positives, also:
- -Everyone made it to Medor in good health.
- The Road was repaired enough so that one could drive all the way up to Medor’s market. The road will likely wash out at the next big rain, but for now it is wonderful to have the ability to make it there by vehicle.
- The work on the airstrip will probably be completed, which will enable an air ambulance service to be offered to the people of Medor. This will be the first such service in all of Haiti.
- Many animals were treated by the Remote Area Medical corps’ veterinarian.
- Many people received much-needed dental care, and the eye clinic examined and gave out glasses to 182 people.
- The medical clinic treated more than 700 patients. Even if many of these patients were in fairly good health, our laying of hands on each person had a positive impact.
- We learned that much of the illness in the area is related to insufficient health care, malnutrition and under-education. People suffer from poverty and neglect.
- We were able to reinforce existing public education initiatives that teach all school children and many clinic patients about cholera and the need to treat water with bleach.
- We distributed bleach, soap and rehydration packets; things that may actually save lives.
- We (Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church) committed to provide buckets, spigots, and bleach for the community of 40,000. This is a huge undertaking for OLQP as well as for the people of the area. Clean water is so much more important for the health of the community than any health clinic that could be offered.
- We discussed with the Parish Counsil creating a community scholarship program for high school students.
- We were able to watch the RAM volunteers in action. These wonderful people are an inspiration. The people of Medor and of OLQP will receive unimaginable benefits from the RAM work in the area.
- Most importantly, we have continued and strengthened our 13-year relationship with with our brothers and sisters in Medor.
It is hard to see how slowly change comes about—The latrines we built are poorly maintained and probably not used properly. Even with the cholera epidemic, many people are resisting the use of bleach in the water. But OLQP is with the people of Medor for the long haul. It is wonderful to see the progress in the area and to know that our efforts are partially responsible. As the people of Medor continue their struggle for a better life, they are helping the people of OLQP. They make us better people.