At Fred's suggestion, I'm going to tell you a little bit about how each day goes here. There is some variation of course, but the days have taken on a rhythm that is actually kind of reassuring; routine amidst the chaos is a necessity, I think, for survival.
Every day starts around 5:35 AM. That's when the power (which turns off at midnight) comes back on, the a/c kicks on, and I wake. Dress, eat a quick breakfast (sometimes a cereal bar; other times, pbj on crackers, but always some sort of protein and a tangerine from the restaurant's breakfast buffet. I told you we were treated well here!) The bus loads at 7AM and we head to the hospital to begin the day's work.
For those on the team who are working at the hospital, they go to their usual posts. John heads into the medical ward where, after just one week, he's the "old-timer" among the nurses. And Stephanie, I think that John has chosen about the toughest job on the hospital's campus. It's dark and depressing in there, and the nicest thing I can say about the medical attention these places receive is that it's very inconsistent. But the nursing care, especially that care given by the IMC nurses working there, has been far better than the patients could ever have hoped for. There are some inconsistencies from one NGO's providers to the next; but that is all John's story and I will leave it to him to tell.
For those of us who have been assigned to the mobile clinics, we begin our day by digging for supplies. Literally. The walls of the IMC office (the "ping-pong room" if you've read my earlier posts) are lined with big cardboard boxes full of disaster supplies. Some contain medical instruments, others have IV supplies or needles and syringes. Most have already been opened and "looted" by IMC nurses and doctors, taken for their clinics or for use in the hospital. But you've hit the jackpot if you open a box full of pills! Most in demand at the clinics are vitamins and iron, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives, anything to treat gastric distress, and pain meds such as Tylenol or paracetamol, a Tylenol equivalent which is commonly used here. We mobile clinic nurses load up our personal cardboard boxes with any meds we think we can use, and supplies to clean wounds or change dressings, and then jealously guard each stash from looting by other mobile clinic nurses! No, just kidding really, we are quite respectful of each other's boxes and I wouldn't dream of snitching from my friends' supplies. Anything we don't find in the boxes, we may (or may not) find in one of two nearby pharmacies, where we may (or may not) find someone willing to locate what we need.
Once the drivers arrive with the vans, we each head out to our respective clinics with our interpreters. (I will write more about my clinic in Bolosse in a separate blog entry.) It takes me about 15 minutes, depending on traffic, to get to Bolosse; but some of the clinics are as much as an hour's drive away.
Clinic days are generally spent examining and treating displaced Haitians who have no other access to medical care. From talking to my friends, the character of each clinic is greatly different from the others. Some are situated under trees; some crews have to climb a steep hillside carrying their supply boxes to set up the clinic under sheets to be used for shade.The Bolosse clinic is located in a school building (didn't I get lucky!). The practitioners (doctors and nurses) who staff each clinic see between 100 to 260 patients each day. Mostly this is primary care: coughs, colds, diarrhea (a LOT of diarrhea). And every once in a while, someone comes in with a severe illnes, or even an untreated injury from the initial earthquake. Very ill or injured patients are taken to the University Hospital for care.
We are expected to return to the IMC office at University Hospital in time to catch a 5 PM shuttle back to the hotel. This is pretty critical; no one is to be left in the hospital unaccounted-for, and unless working the night shift no one is left there in the dark, ever. (I haven't volunteered for night shift, and neither has John.) We take the shuttle back to the hotel, where we find the power and water non-functional till about 7 PM. We debrief with IMC's administration for an hour or so; by then, the power and water are back, and we shower before dinner if we can. Many of the volunteers are still sleeping in the conference center, or "ballroom" as I described it in an earlier post; these folks have to ask someone in a hotel room or suite (such as mine) to shower there. Last night the shower line for our room didn't clear out until about 10 PM, at which time a pediatrician new to Haiti showed up. "Sure, come on in and get clean" we always say.
Dinner is at 8 PM, buffet-style at the hotel. The food has been pretty good; I don't think that's what made me sick yesterday. After dinner, many of the (younger) volunteers head to the bar for a nightcap or just some down time. This is when I try to borrow a computer or Blackberry, to update my blog or email Fred or Tara.
10 PM sees me in my room, journaling and laughing and talking with my roommates, Simone and Nicole. They are both originally from Haiti, and are a delight to be around. This is where my Creole (scant though it may be) is corrected and polished. By 10:30 it's lights out; at midnight the power goes out and, God willing, there is no pool-side party hosted by a news team to keep us awake.
And at 5:35, the power comes back on, and we start all over again.