Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Betadine and Bureaucracy

We start our days with the roosters crowing and the sun coming up, in
Haiti….how could we not? The windows are wide open and there’s no
escaping reality….the day is upon us! Today, Monday, I had high hopes
of getting certain things done…and they are coming along, kind of, in
the crazy way that happens down here.
All the furniture that I purchased in Port au Prince on Friday, to
open a tiny little birth center…well, that was interesting. After
finalizing the shipment, to be delivered in 1-2 weeks, I got to the
little tiny town, where we had been told “ It’s already built, ready
to go”…well, yes, but. “Already Built” here apparently means There is
a Structure. Our birth center in Trianon will be great! I love the
size! the location! It has a plan for power outlets! Water! Lovely
view of the mountains! But right now, it is cinder blocks, rough
concrete, and a road mostly, but not quite, done. So disconcerting,
as I had just purchased 3 beds, 3 mattresses, a locking metal cabinet,
a desk, 2 chairs, 3 fans, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oooh boy.
Time to call America. So this is why I have a Haitian cell phone, and
programmed for international calls!
Okay, so, Nadene says, we’ll make sure our other birth center
location is ready and secure, and get those furnishings out to the
other birth center site, Bassin Zim. It only took a lot of US-Haiti
cell phone calls, money wired to our trusty friend in Port au Prince,
and now the shipment is coming to Bassin Zim this week. It will be
very interesting seeing the truck bring it out…the road is rutted,
dust and rocks….but it’s Haiti, and it can’t be that big of a surprise
to the drivers. Now all we need is a couple solar panels, a deep pit
for garbage, a water tank, a security guy…and we’ll save some mothers
from the grueling trip to town over the roads that basically keep them
home, delivering with untrained ( or no ) people to help.
Today’s strangeness actually began with a little boy. I had ridden
in the Pink Jeep out to La Palis, with 2 Haitian midwives, 1 American
midwife, and an American doctor, had begun seeing patients. I was
outside on the cement porch, playing phone tag about furniture between
Port au Prince and Richmond…and a boy about 10 years old came and sat
near me, and gestured to his left leg, questioning if I would look at
it. His entire calf had a massively infected area, large and ugly and
hard to really see due to the dirt crusted over it. I looked in my
backpack, which I had just thrown together in the morning, and I “just
happened “to have a large plastic bag…(thank you, nurses of Loudoun
Hospital….) with gauze, betadine, and gloves in it. I used the water
in my water bottle to wash it, first…then the betadine…soaked and
scrubbed a bit…then it was doctor time. This is not my specialty—but
Dr. Carolyn came out, and we agreed together that it was hospital time
for this boy, before he loses some of his muscle. His dad had come ,
by then, and said he could get him to the hospital tomorrow…. I made a
dressing for him with antibiotic ointment, a clean diaper (my #1
favorite Haitian utiity tool) and tape. I pray he gets that nasty
wound treated in town. He didn’t even know how he got it… I suspect a
spider bite.
Unfortunately, I had sat in some betadine during the wound-cleaning
episode on the clinic porch. When I walked by the ladies waiting on
benches, they smiled and giggled at me—because on my scrubs, I had a
noticeable, reddish-brown stain on my rear end that appeared to be
blood or poo. I have a serious mission to get an appointment with
the new regional head of the Ministry of Health, so I still showed
up at the hospital, but with a little flannel baby blanket draped
around my backside, as if it were a sweater. (“Its’ the new fashion in
the States!”) I figured, if I’m lucky enough to see someone
important, I’ll take it off, and back out of the room after we talk!
….Alas, No such luck…the head of the department is out of town…’til
Ok, I said, but Midwives for Haiti really needs to meet with him! “No
problem!” The secretary said. When in April do you want to come? I
picked the next date that I knew Dr. Steve & director Nadene would be
there…and said..how about April 27? “Ok, fine”, he said… and did not
glance at a calendar, nothing. What time? I asked…”eleven.” Ok….I
asked…are you going to write this down?? He opened up a computer
screen, but I ‘m not so sure anything got put anywhere. It’s
discouraging. God, please give Haiti new, better leadership models
and good government, in the March 20 elections! I trudged out with
my baby blanket over my butt, hoping for the best. Midwives for
Haiti keeps going, and we have furniture, and babies, on the way,
regardless of the bureaucracy..

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