By Ronine Zamor
CENTRAL PLATEAU, Haiti–I saw this patient during my first visit to Haiti six months ago. Back then, she was a 10 year-old girl who couldn’t walk and had terrible bumps all over her skin. No one could figure out what the problem was so she was taken to the hospital. They gave her medication and took a biopsy. The diagnosis still has not been found but thoughts are racing from ectopic dermatitis to Histiocytosis X to just a terrible allergic reaction. Although we have not found the problem, our standard of care continued to increase for this patient. She had been making tremendous progress. They checked up on her a couple months ago and she was up walking and talking like a normal child.
As we were sitting down after a morning full of home visits, the same girl came up to us. Her skin lesions had gotten worse and she could not elongate her arms. All the physicians and students gathered around to determine our plan of action. It was clear that we had no idea what was infecting her, but we knew what we could do to help her symptoms. I bathed her in order to wash all of the dirt she had on her so that we could exam her better. While taking a bath, all she could do was smile. I gave her a towel and brought her to the doctor. Her skin was a lot clearer. I applied cream on her and we told her to come back everyday we are here so that we could bathe her and give her medication. She smiled and walked away.
As she left, I realized what I just did for that little girl. Although I could not tell her what she was suffering from, I alleviated the pain she was experiencing. Physicians often say that even though you may not know what is wrong with the patient, they just want to know that you sincerely care for them. It proves that even though we may never know what this little girl has, it is what we can do for her that makes a difference in these people’s lives.