Thursday, June 9, 2011

FINI...m'ale Haiti =(

June 9 2011
Today marks our last night in Les Cayes! Tomorrow morning will be our last in the clinic, and then we hop in the van and head off to Port au Prince.  We'll spend a night at the Medical Teams International house in Port au Prince, and head to the airport Saturday afternoon. We'll spend the night in Miami (where we will finally have hot water for our showers...and air conditioning), and head back to Chicago first thing Sunday morning!

As we reflect upon our journey, we are all super sad to leave this beautiful country, our new friends, our patients whom we have seen make tremendous progress (their motivation is so inspiring), and will miss the friendly culture. Everyone has been so welcoming to us and have bid us a "Bonjour or Bonswa!" and flash their bright smiles at us as we pass by, or even stop us to practice their English and share about their life stories and how God has been good to them despite the difficulties in their life. Though we will miss Haiti, we must admit we will not miss the large cockroaches that haunt our dreams and live underneath our beds, the trillion mosquitos that leave our legs looking chickenpoxed, the freezing water that causes us to contort our bodies to avoid the water as much as possible, the hair frizz, and how can we describe this-the AWFUL smell radiating from our clothing, shoes, and..selves, and most of all the RAIN (just to name a few)! Today was the first day since last Wednesday that it did not rain, so we enjoyed some time outside this afternoon, and will spend the evening playing cards on the porch. This has been such a wonderful experience in Haiti and we are so thankful for this opportunity to learn about a culture so different from our own. Since it is our last night, we will be keeping our last post short (we don't want to miss out on precious time we can spend with our friends on our last night!). So refer to the photos below as a sum up of our past days:

Inpatient hospital floor
This was a busy week for fractures. Unfortunately, many of them are not set properly, or are not surgically repaired when they need to be.

We organized the wound care drawer, where-surprise! A cockroach family made their home...until Lauren rudely threw them outside today.

Philostene, standing with no assistance, we are so proud of his progress!
The local water source. The water comes from an underground spring, and is used for cooking, cleaning, and drinking (for those who cannot afford clean drinking water)

The Medical Teams International House where we have been residing at

Us with a few of our Haitian friends in our last night in Les Cayes!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Haiti rain in the news

Haiti's rainy season comes every year, but this year is especially worrisome due to the cholera epidemic and the large number of people living in camps who have no protection against mudslides and flooding. Today was the first day we had a break from the rain (it's been about 6 hours!!), so hopefully it will stay this way!

Here are some links to the news stories:

Monday, June 6, 2011

The inondasyon!

Today was the sixth consecutive day of nonstop rain. We had a tiny break from it this afternoon, and then it started right back up again! On Saturday, we were tired of being cooped up at the house, so we ventured out in the rain for market day. We could not believe how flooded the entire city was, and even more amazing was that knee (sometimes waist deep) water didn't stop market day from happening. We spent the rest of the night playing card games and chatting with our new Haitian friends. It was great to get back to the clinic today, and we're excited to see our patients make progress. Here's a picture summary of our lives for the past few days:

SEED-an organization that helps sustainable agriculture. The fields have all flooded since the rain started

Les Cayes for Saturday market day. The shallow parts were ankle deep

The cars cause waves that are lapping onto front porches

Somehow, we didn't see any cars/bikes get stuck! Not quite sure how...

Conference in the street

We resorted to sharing ponchos since there weren't enough to go around

A little rain won't stop her from Saturday shopping!

The wharf-instead of beach, the shore is lined with trash

The floods pick up and carry the garbage all around town

Riding a bike while holding an umbrella and groceries is a skill you learn when it rains this much

The goats try to escape the rising waters

Tricia enjoying our market purchases. We're still not quite sure what they are...but they taste good!

Lauren checks the blood pressure of Denise, who recently had a stroke, to make sure she is safe to exercise

Tricia works with Olivia, who had a stroke last year and still works hard in therapy

Lauren and Amanda work on balance with Denise.

This boy is getting fit with the prosthesis that we saw made in the shop last week (see the pictures from last week)

He's a pro-after a few minutes of practice he's ready to go!

A busy Monday morning in the clinic

Lauren and Maureen work with Phelostene, who has made some huge improvements since we first saw him last week! He stood independently for the first time today.

Tricia works with Bernard, who has a below the knee amputation on his left leg, and a recent partial foot amputation on the right side. He will be fit for a prosthesis this week, so hopefully he will be able to leave the hospital soon

Maureen works with a woman who has severe burns on her arm and trunk. We try to keep her moving as much as we can so she doesn't form scars that limit her motion.

Amanda gets Bernard up and putting some weight through his right foot, which he has not done for quite a while

Our crew, after we finished up with our patients today

We're pretty bad at pronouncing Haitian names, so our friends spelled out their names for us in bananagrams tiles.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Great Lapli

June 2, 2011
The start of the great flood...
The rainstorm started on Wednesday, right in the middle of our soccer game. We thought it would end by the next day, but we were so wrong. We awoke to the trickling of rain in the middle of the night, which on a tin roof sounds something like someone throwing nails against a metal sheet...constantly. The rain continued for what seemed like the next 10 years. In fact, it is still raining as we write this. We were unable to go the clinic because the entire region closes down when it pours cats and dogs. The morning was spent studying diligently while being serenaded by the deafening sound of rain on the tin roof. By lunch time, we were all burnt out from studying and decided to play games and go for a walk in the rain. We met one young man who pointed at Tricia and said she was beautiful and then preceded to congratulate her on her beauty. The rest of us stood in her shadows. After our walk, we hung out at the house and got to talk with Likowki, one of the trainees in the prosthetics shop. We learned tons about Haitian culture, and Haitian perceptions about the United States. Some were correct, and some were "slightly" exaggerated. For example, it is common Haitian belief that in America, money is everywhere, everyone is rich, and no one has to work hard. We were told that there are places to go in the states where you can pay 2-3 dollars, stay for 24 hours, and eat as much as you want! (If anyone knows of one of these places, let us know!) They also are amazed that we can get water for free from water fountains, or in restaurants, or that the government helps you get food if your family is poor. Likowki has never seen snow, so we showed him pictures of the snowstorm from this winter, and he was amazed! Then we started talking about American sports, and realized how ridiculous some sports (especially football) sound to someone who has never heard of the sport. (So every time they hit someone they get a red card?? No, hitting people is kind of the point...) Snow skiing, water skiing, hockey, etc. Then, he gave us a lesson in Kreyol, and explained a lot about Haitian culture. It was amazing to hear his story. Some interesting things we learned: It is considered bad form to call your family poor, because if you are Christian, God provides for you, and calling yourself poor would be ungrateful. Industry is rare here, so jobs are extremely hard to find and hold onto.  We learned about Haitian politics, schools, and the aftermath of the earthquake. Other interesting trivia: Haitian people fear frogs in the way that Americans fear spiders. In the evening we were able to watch Marvin, the prosthetist, make a lovely new prosthesis for a young boy who had broken 4 previous prosthesis. This one was made of titanium instead of plastic, and will hopefully hold up better for him. We ended the night with tons of laughter and smiles while playing numerous card games! Refer to the pictures below... 

June 3, 2011
Our day began with...can you guess? Yes, rain!! (Supposedly the forecast is rain until next Wednesday, and then it will start up again on Thursday!) Yet, we were all antsy and determined to go to the clinic even if no one would show up. Surprisingly, the day was quite busy with treating all of our inpatients and even having 2 new evaluations! One of them was a woman who had a hysterectomy and the day after had a stroke. That was one month ago and today was the first day she was evaluated for physical therapy. She has very poor sitting balance, pushes towards the left, and was very distracted. Working with a patient who has had a stroke who has cognitive deficits is difficult, especially when you add a language barrier. The other patient was a man who had epilepsy and fell into a fire and sustained 2nd degree burns over his left leg, left arm, and right and left hand. His wounds did not heal and he had to be surgically debrided this week. When we saw him, he was in so much pain, he could barely lift his hands up or even move. We are treating a total of two patients who have sustained 2nd degree burns and it's heartbreaking at times to make them move because it causes them more pain. Yet, we know if they do not move, it will just get worse and their pain will increase. Unfortunately, pain medications are not as readily available as they are back in the states.  Sometimes even our translators do not want to see them because seeing them in agony is too much for them. After our morning was finished we headed home to eat lunch. The rain started to pick up and was falling so heavily that we spontaneously try showering in the rain (If anyone saw us they would've thought Americans sure have peculiar behavior)!!  Pictures are below. Afterwards we went with Kelly, another volunteer, to visit a school for women where she teaches English and life skills. The women who run this shop hand-make various goods such as purses, hand embroidered napkins, skirts, aprons, etc. These goods are sold and all the proceeds go to help support their families. They were all beautifully made, and we all bought several things to bring back for our friends or family members. As we headed out of the school, the rain had picked up where the streets looked like overflowing rivers. There were a few slips, but luckily we all made it back to the house alive (but soaked to the bone)! 

Tricia makes sure everyone flosses before they go to bed to insure healthy gums! (even if they don't want to)
Our hanging dirty/wet clothes are starting to weigh down our mosquito nets!
This is what happens when you are unable to do laundry...clothes pile up, and mosquito nets fall down
We watched Lekowki's team take the win! (He's the "president" of the team)
The workshop where the prosthetics and orthotics are made (in our house in which we are staying in)
Tools and prosthetic knees
feet of all sizes, and titanium for the heavy duty legs. Most are made with the red cross plastic materials. They work for some, but for those who are very active, they may not hold up for long. 

These sheets of plastic are heated in an oven, until they are flexible enough to be molded around a socket

Marvin fits a socket around a plaster mold of the patient's residual limb.
The socket is wrapped in plastic, then the vacuum tube conforms the socket to the plaster mold

Marvin then builds up certain areas of the socket with foam to make it more comfortable for the patient

The metal square will be used later to attach to the titanium rod

The black plastic after it has been heated. Marvin drapes it over the socket, then waits for it to cool. 

The vacuum system sucks the plastic tightly to the socket to ensure that it is shaped correctly. After the plastic is formed properly, he trims the edges off and smoothes it out 

This is the red cross plastic prosthesis, which was not strong enough for this particular patient. 

Marvin saws off the long edges

and smoothes it out so it does not touch the patient's skin

Marvin drills holes onto the bottom so the rest of the prosthesis can be attached. 

The titanium rod and foot are attached

and then aligned in slight flexion using a laser to make sure everything  is at the right angle

Celebrating Lauren's 24th birthday with a cake!!

Enjoying cake and good friends :)

The INTENSE game of spoon begins...

and continues...!

we re-emphaize, INTENSE game of spoons (they're weighted spoons OT's use. A chunk of kara's skin was scooped out with a spoon)

Saw a little friend in the pipes of our house..

Playing dominos
Did we mention it has been raining for 3 days straight?! Sometimes we are limited to what we can do while being cooped up in the house...

Philostine (our patient with osmotic demylination) is practically taller than Tricia standing on a plinth! Imagine gait training him without a plinth, it was tough!

just a typical day, showering in the rain... 

The streets, flooded!
parts were almost knee deep!

Trekking up to the house in the rain...good thing we live on top of a hill!