Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Volunteers Expand Service to Other Hospitals

Today was one of the toughest days I've seen here in Haiti. Two Project HOPE volunteers, Jason Harris and Richelle Charles, have shifted their focus to the hospital in Petite Riviere, a small city on the opposite side of the Artibonite River. It's not far from the Hospital Albert Schweitzer, but because there's not a direct road between the two, and because the north side of the river is seeing more cholera cases, that hospital has remained extremely busy with new cholera cases. Jason and Richelle jumped in head first, assisting local nurses in evaluating patients and tending to urgent cases.

By the end of the day, both were exhausted but practically begging to stay longer. Unfortunately, with the state of the roads in this part of Haiti, it was necessary to leave before dark. Having learned a great deal about the processes in the Petite Riviere hospital on their first day, they are both looking forward to returning today to see if they can't make some improvements in patient flow to help heal people more quickly and get them home.

In the end, cholera is not a difficult sickness to treat if addressed in its early stages. Unfortunately, the early stages do not last very long, and when an outbreak strikes the number of patients can quickly overwhelm medical staff. In the end, it's as much about putting in place efficient systems for patient care as much as it's about in-depth medical knowledge.

The other interesting part of my day was the part I spent with Eddie Rawson, son of Ian Rawson, Hospital Albert Schweitzer's managing director and overall guru. We traveled around the Artibonite valley to see some of the everyday activities through which people can be exposed to cholera. We found men diving in the river to pull out buckets of sand to mix up concrete, women doing their wash in the river, and men working rice paddies irrigated with river water. All expressed the general feeling that they had no choice; their contact with potentially contaminated water sources was a calculated risk, and while catching cholera was something they desperately hoped to avoid, they could not afford to simply stop working. Such are the realities of Haiti.

Photos and story by HOPE's correspondent on the ground, Brendan Hoffman.

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