Elna Osso with a patient in Haiti.

 

Last month, we reported on a team of five nurses from PIH’s sister organization in Peru, Socios En Salud (SES), who spent two weeks in Haiti working with PIH’s Haitian sister organization Zanmi Lasante (ZL). The team recently returned home to Lima. The group’s leader, SES International Project Coordinator Elna Osso recently recounted the team’s experiences:

We travelled to Haiti via the Dominican Republic as not all team members were able to obtain the US visas required to travel to Port au Prince via Miami. From Santo Domingo, we took a ride to the border between the D.R. and Haiti.

The next day we travelled to Hinche and the St. Therese Hospital. It is the largest hospital in the central plateau and ZL also works there.  We stayed and worked in Hinche for the rest of our trip.  In the hospital, we were assigned roles according to our nursing expertise. Some people worked in the tuberculosis program, others in the surgical wards, and I worked in the hospital’s intensive-care unit. 

It took only a few days to gain a rhythm of the work and to integrate within the flow of the hospital’s other nurses. We knew a little basic Haitian Creole. Otherwise we communicated with the assistance of local interpreters.

Hinche was spared the structural damage suffered by buildings in Port-au-Prince—only a few cracks in the walls stood as reminders of the devastating earthquake. 

Yet, almost every person had a story to tell, a personal loss to bear. The sorrow was palpable.  At the hospital, a few of the patients who had traveled from Port-au-Prince still had open wounds, and other patients waited quietly for the time when a cast could be removed. 

I saw a woman carry her 14-year-old daughter—who had a pelvic-leg cast—to the hospital on her back. Neither the heat nor exhaustion stopped either of them from sharing smiles and thankfulness.

I was particularly touched when I watched families take turns to care for a hospitalized relative, the family members sleeping on the floor, bathing their loved ones, and feeding them. They were true accompagnateurs. I took every opportunity I had to tell them that I too believed that accompaniment is indispensible medicine.

In town, the population had swollen with people from the capital, who, after surviving the earthquake, are without jobs and schools.

Such was the case of Santo, one of our interpreters, who like many was adapting to the new reality. He told me he is starting to teach English now that there are so many Americans coming.

During our final week in Haiti, we visited ZL’s Cange hospital, an important place in our organization’s history as PIH’s first hospital—a facility we have heard so much about while working in Peru. As Cange has taught so much to SES and other PIH sites around the world, it was fitting that our team, experts at treating tuberculosis and drug-resistant tuberculosis, had the opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge with Cange’s infectious disease department, as well as the tuberculosis clinic in Hinche.

We would like to thank all the members of ZL who welcomed, supported, and cared for us during our stay in Haiti. Mesi anpil!

 

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