From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – When Luc Bouquet arrived at the clinic yesterday morning after a cold bucket shower, a hard-boiled egg, and a splash of thin coffee, 75 people were already gathered on benches in the speckled shade of a billowing tarp.
One woman with a badly bruised pelvis was pushed in a wheelbarrow to this simple medical facility, Haiti Clinic, in Port-au-Prince’s worst slum, Cite Soleil.
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While Bouquet would see most of the patients in the clinic’s dirt courtyard, he asked three men to help carry the woman into the clinic’s small, bare waiting room to protect her privacy.
Fans, useless without electricity, were parked in two corners. The door to the supply closet had been left open so clinic assistants could fetch gauze pads and bottles of hydrogen peroxide.
A plastic shoe-organizer had been turned into a pharmaceutical storage unit. The row of pockets designated for adult antibiotics was nearly empty.
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Supplies for worm medicines were full. Rows upon rows of Tylenol cold and sinus medication had been lined up like at-the-ready soldiers. But Bouquet found an expanse of nearly bare white wood shelves in the section that held the drugs needed for deep wound infections.
Bouquet, a Haitian American nurse practitioner who grew up here but now lives and works in Florida, slipped on examining gloves and lifted the woman’s dress, and gently poked her belly. He manipulated her legs to test her knees and hips. She winced and moaned, but he spoke to her soothingly, then asked her to get up to see if she could walk. Although every step clearly hurt, she managed to cross the room.
“It’s not broken,” he said, and explained that the falling concrete had only bruised her. Handing her Tylenol, he told her in Creole, “No more than four a day!” then helped her walk to the door.
“OK, OK,” he said softly when she resisted. “Itsy-bitsy. Itsy-bitsy.” Then he handed her over to her friend, who put the woman back in the wheelbarrow and disappeared down one of Cite Soleil’s narrow alleyways.
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He moved on quickly to the next patient, saying good morning to James Jacques, a 14-year-old he treated the day before for a gaping wound on his calf, which was badly inflamed and infected. He’d given James’ mother two bottles of antibiotics but told her the boy needed to be hospitalized.
But here he was back at the clinic, smiling broadly. Examining the leg, Bouquet patted him on the back.
“The medicine is working!” he said, instructing clinic workers to change the dressing.
He didn’t have time to rejoice in a success that may be only temporary, considering the desperately poor conditions James goes home to – no home. He is sleeping on the street with his family, along with tens of thousands of others.
The day would be unlike any Bouquet had lived through. And it would leave him more perplexed than ever, as uncertain about his country’s future and his own part in it, as torn as anyone can be who loves Haiti and can’t stand to see it continue to suffer.
In all, Bouquet would see more than 100 patients over the next few hours.
Learn more about Haiti Clinic and donate by visiting them online at www.haiticlinic.org.
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