Dr. Clint Griffin, M.D., Holland Hospital Emergency Room
This is my first trip to Haiti and I didn’t really know what to expect. My partner at work at Holland Hospital, Michael Page, had been to Haiti several times and was very familiar with the setting and the country because of his previous trips. Michael had filled me in as to what to expect, but I didn’t really know what it was like here in Haiti, that is, not until I got here.
We are in Sassier, Haiti, and it is beautiful here. The surrounding area that we flew into in Port au Prince is much more desolate as they have logged most of the hillsides and mountains in the area. So, I didn’t know what to expect when I got here to Sassier. I also didn’t know how well things would go as far as landing in Haiti. But I was met just clearing customs by Gerry Keenan who is hosting us here (Partners with Sassier). Gerry is a very outgoing and organized, and everything went very smoothly because of Gerry’s efforts.
The flight from Port au Prince to Jeremie was seamless and the transition went very well. I got to see Junior, a Haitian who I had met in the US because he had been to Michigan several times. We had attended church with him and the Page family and he was a comforting and familiar face when I landed in Port au Prince. The more I met our Haitian partners here, the more I realized what a truly genuine and authentically kind and generous people they are. That makes giving to the Haitian people the easiest thing you could ever imagine. Donating our time and our talents here has been a true pleasure.
Everyone I’ve met has just been wonderful. I get the feeling that the Haitians who are better off such as the translators and physicians that we have met with and worked with here also give back. Working with Baba and Jean (he was the main translator that I worked with), I could see that they got a thrill out of doing their jobs, giving candy to the kids, and Baba used some of his own money that he had earned this week to go and buy some extra treats for the kids. I thought this was a great thing and it was so nice to see that we are not the only ones who are trying to provide some inspiration here. Certainly there are a lot of higher educated folks here in Haiti who are trying to inspire their fellow countrymen.
We saw a wide variety of patients, some of whom were very ill. The majority of patients we saw had minor aches and pains that had not been evaluated by a physician previously. It was an extreme pleasure to do physical exams, to listen and to discuss their problems.
I also saw some younger patients who were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of the earthquake. Just getting to talk to them and tell them that what they were feeling was a normal response…I don’t know that they have had someone to talk to and to tell them that feeling anxious about going to sleep and being scared is normal after such an event.
One of my favorite cases was taking care of a dental abscess of a small child of five years of age. The abscess had grown and made the left side of face swollen. He could not open his mouth voluntarily because of muscle spasms to the jaw. So, it was very difficult to get a look and see what was going on. We weren’t sure if this might be a case of mumps where you can see unilateral swelling, but it appeared to be most consistent based on history with a dental abscess. Eventually, after wrestling with it, we were able to visualize the abscess well and use a scalpel to drain it. This was particularly rewarding because such an abscess, had it grown farther which it would have, could have compromised his airway and could have cost him his life.
The one thing I regret most at this point in time is that I will miss the last clinic day because my flight leaves earlier than the rest of the team.
This has been a wonderful experience and I really intend on coming back to Haiti. Barking dogs and crowing roosters and all! The only other thing that I would say that I missed out on in the trip was not having my wife with me. She has been on my previous mission work and she really enjoys spending time with the people. I know that she really would have been inspiring for everyone and would have enjoyed spending time with the people of Sassier.