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Archive for November, 2009

By Katie Lee

HICAGNE, Haiti—While I haven’t spent Thanksgiving at home in quite a few years, this was the first that I’ve spent in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving! Today was the last day of clinic, and it was a perfect end to the week: I got to follow a patient from triage to transfer. She was a 17-year-old girl with a tiny lethargic five-month-old baby. The baby’s lethargy scared me.

If there’s one thing that’s been reinforced this week, it’s that screaming babies are a good thing-it means they have enough health to realize when they’re not feeling well. This baby was listless, merely staring at us through eyes covered in a white film as we took her blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. Her mother’s chief complaint was that her daughter was vomiting so much that she couldn’t eat anything, and she was losing a lot of weight. When we asked her if she breast fed, she said a doctor said she couldn’t because it hurt her too much. Physical exam revealed lethargy, no tears when crying (a sign of severe dehydration), and a couple of rashes on her cheeks and buttocks. The doctor working with us discovered that the mother was HIV positive. This could have been the reason the doctor told her not to breastfeed, since the HIV virus can be transmitted through breast milk. The mother was a restavek, an orphan who relied on strangers to take her in, and it would have taken her eight hours to walk to the nearest hospital. We decided to take her to Cange at the end of the day.

The hospital in the town of Cange was started by Paul Farmer, an American most famous for the book Mountains Beyond Mountains about the creation of Zanmi Lasanti (Partners in Health). This organization strives to improve overall health conditions in Haiti through acute hospital care, community health care workers who directly observe therapy at the home, and preventative services. After spending the past five days in Haiti, walking into the Zanmi Lasante compound was like walking into Disneyland. Everything was clean, concrete, and huge. Inside the infant unit, the walls were painted white, there were hand sanitizer pumps at every bedside, and in the corner I even saw a television.

We presented our case to the doctor working the unit, who agreed to admit both mother and child. We had to leave after she was admitted, and I’ll never know what happened to that mother and that baby. Zanmi Lasante is known for their social support network, and hopefully they can provide some assistance to a girl who literally has no one. All I know is that although this one case obviously did not change the dire state of health in Haiti– or maybe even changed the course of this woman’s life, we were able to help her as much as we can for as long as we saw her. That individual attention to care is why I’m a part of Project Medishare, and eventually part of the international health community.

Katie Lee is a first year at Emory Medical School. This is her first trip to Haiti with Project Medishare.

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By Woon Cho Kim

BATILLE, ,CASSE DISTRICT, Haiti—Three whole days of rural outreach clinics and couple of hundreds of patients later, my mind is absolutely overwhelmed with too many thoughts, reflections, and emotions. Coming to Haiti as a young medical student in training may just be one of the best decisions I have made in my academic career so far.

As soon as we set up the clinics this morning, an 80-year-old woman stumbled into the OB/Gyn clinic, moaning in pain. Sameer had spotted her from the crowd in the waiting area and quickly referred her to the clinic. She was in so much pain that she could not walk on her own. After getting her trembling body on the bed and going through the translators, we learned that she hasn’t urinated in the past three days. This is how the next hour panned out: after a quick pelvic exam, the attending diagnoses her with final stage of cervical cancer.

She only has a few days to live.

Through a translator, the attending delivers the grim news to the family members. While the family listens to the doctor, I feel a weak squeeze on my hand. The old lady, too exhausted to move, had reached out to hold my hand.

I will never know why she did that. Perhaps she needed to communicate, or maybe she wanted a human touch at the moment. I have never been so appreciative of the scorching heat—I think my sweat masked my tears pretty well.

In the end, she is sent back home with a packet of Tylenol to relieve her pain. I watch her leave the dusty compound with her family, transported on a horse.

Not that modern medicine could have cured her cancer; plan for treatment and care would have been very different for someone in her situation back home. Extreme poverty, lack of access to medical care, and inequality in health resources are all scary realities here in Haiti. And many other parts of the world, U.S. included. The amount of injustice is an unsettling feeling for me. It is even more disturbing to be reminded how easy it is to forget what it is like for the majority of the people in this world.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, to be part of the reality of the people. The reality that we should face as medical professionals is a grim one, but it is a noble task. My trip to Haiti is making me realize just that.

Woon Cho Kim is a first year student at Emory Medical School.

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By Constance Harrell

HINCHE, Haiti—Meeting the Hinche commune’s minister of health was both inspiring and revealing of how much of the international medical work connects with the local health workers. Kathleen, Jen, and Matt, three Gyn/Oncology doctors from MD Anderson who have been running our OB/Gyn clinics on this trip, are starting a new trip in conjunction with Project Medishare to focus on obstetric and gynecologic surgical and clinical needs. It’s been tricky setting up the trip to figure out what the community needs, and what is currently available so that we can best work within the local health system and expand their potential from within as much as possible. Costs are a big factor too; if we bring our own anesthesia machine, CONE or LEAPS machines, and nursing assistants, we need start preparing yesterday.

The Health Minister, Dr. Raphael, ushered us into his sparse but nonetheless clean and air-conditioned office to discuss why we came. A posh fellow in a suit, drastically different from the often half-clothed patients we see just 30 km away, Dr. Raphael spoke to us in perfect French and Spanish, which was eloquently translated by Project Medishare’s Program Coordinator Gaby into English to ensure we could all understand. Our conversation, which was a repeat of conversations held yesterday with other Hinch VIPs, confirmed that we would be welcome to work in their hospital for a week this spring.

But to put together a surgical trip, we can’t just know we’re welcome – we need to know every detail in advance to ensure that when we come, we do good, not harm. How many patients with cervical or breast cancer do they see, who treats them and where, what screening is done, what instruments and machines are used, what are the conditions in the operating room? To figure out these details, we met with the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Prince. We found him in the hospital seeing patients in clean but crowded and poorly lit rooms ventilated only by fans and windows. He gave us a better sense of what is needed and what is available, but still more needs to be learned.

I write this post in order to raise awareness about how hard it is to pull this kind of trip off. One week takes hundreds of emails and telephone calls, and months of hard work in addition to the thousands of dollars to treat the patients we see who are so desperately in need of care, and expanded access to care.

Constance “Bene” Harrell is a first-year medical student at Emory. This is her first trip to Haiti.

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By Sameer Kapadia

CASSE, Haiti—First day of clinic and I started off in pediatric triage. It was wild. I have never felt as much anxiety taking a blood pressure reading as I did taking the first one of the day.

Let me set the scene: it was really hot, me, another med student, and about 25 Haitian children and their parents crowded around us to watch what was about to be done to them.

I’ve worked in low-resource clinics before and triage always seemed like the most simple and often, least significant part of a person’s care. This is absolutely not the case in Haiti. Triage gives us an indication of distress, malnutrition, anemia, and dehydration. These factors are incredibly important here and are signs of the most prevalent causes of illness. With that said, I have also never been this pressed for time in taking these measurements, appropriately called “vitals.”

My colleagues and I had to develop…a dance, a perfect balance between time, rhythm and specificity. Like any dance worth learning, we tripped and fell for a while until we worked out a system that worked for everyone. In this case, that meant adding another person to our two-person team. By the end of the day, by making this a trio instead of a duet, we had figured out a rhythm that would ensure that our patients got the care they deserved.

This experience showed me that above all, global health demands flexibility, patience, and persistence.

Sameer Kapadia is a first year medical student at Emory Medical School. This is his first trip to Haiti with Project Medishare. Emory Medical School takes a yearly medical trip to Haiti every November.

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By Jennifer Browning

Because Rome’s U.N. Food and Agriculture offices are unheated at night, U.N. Food Chief Jacques Diouf bundled up with a hat, scarf and overcoat over his pajamas and spent the night on a makeshift mattress in an effort to draw attention to the 1 billion chronically malnourished people before next week’s U.N. food summit. Diouf began the 24-hour strike at 8 p.m. Friday in the lobby FAO offices.

Diouf along with the FAO hopes to raise awareness about the plight of the world’s hungry as well as put pressure on world leaders to help combat malnutrition.

The Akamil Production Facility sits behind a new generator, the first equipment to be installed for the facility. The Akamil Production Facility will manufacture and distribute Akamil, a mix of locally-grown products such as cereals (rice, corn, millet, wheat) and vegetables (beans) all blended into powder. It is a product of great nutritious value containing building and energetic nutrients, and is affordable to poor families. With the expert consultation of a nutritionist, the finished product will be fortified with a mix of important vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin A.

The Akamil Production Facility sits behind a new generator, the first piece of equipment to be installed for the facility. The Akamil Production Facility will manufacture and distribute Akamil, a mix of locally-grown products such as cereals (rice, corn, millet, wheat) and vegetables (beans) all blended into powder. The finished product will be fortified with a mix of important vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin A.

On the heels of the upcoming UN Food Summit, Project Medishare has been working toward specifically solving the malnutrition problem in Haiti with the construction of the Akamil Production Facility and Nutrition Complex. Construction of the facility began over two years ago and despite severe hurricanes the Akamil Production Facility is finally complete. Currently, equipment for the production facility is being installed. Project Medishare is expecting to conduct trial runs of the Akamil product in December.

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By Jennifer Browning

image001Don’t miss out on hearing Edwidge Danticat read at the REBUILD HAITI: MISSION POSSIBLE event. Today is the final day to RSVP.

The fundraiser will feature Haitian-American writer and 2009 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Award,” Edwidge Danticat. Danticat is known for her contemporary work of Haitian heritage writing in English from her award-winning 1994 debut, Breath, Eyes, Memory and her equally lauded 1995 short story collection Krik? Krak!.

This will be the second year Coral Gables Congregational Church will sponsor REBUILD HAITI. The event will also include a silent auction, wine reception, entertainment, and Haitian crafts display. Monies raised will go directly toward Project Medishare, Haitian Education Leadership Project, the Lambi Fund of Haiti, and FAVACA.

Please come help REBUILD HAITI and support Project Medishare Friday, November 13; 7-10 p.m. at the Coral Gables Congregational Church. Please RSVP TODAY at (305)448-7421.

Can’t join us but still want to help us in our mission? Click here to make a tax deductible donation to Project Medishare.

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By Jennifer Browning

Double your giving spirit this holiday season by doing your shopping online with online partners like GoodShop, iGive, and Donation Street. Instead of bracing yourself for a season of jam-packed parking lots and crowded stores find that perfect something for that perfect someone, and raise money for Project Medishare at the same time. The following online companies work with merchants who are willing to donate a percentage of your sales to the nonprofit of your choice:


GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!
Raise money for Project Medishare for Haiti just by searching the web and shopping online. Powered by Yahoo!, each time you search using GoodSearch you raise money for Project Medishare. To be sure Project Medishare receives credit for your searches, type in Project Medishare’s name in the area asking who you are GoodSearching for, and then click verify. After verifying, every search earns Project Medishare money. On average, if 1,000 Project Medishare supporters search twice a day for a year, Project Medishare earns $7,300.

GoodShop, an online shopping mall of popular merchants like Best Buy, Target, Bloomingdales, and The Gap. Each purchase made via the GoodShop mall results in a donation to the user’s designated charity or school – averaging approximately 3 to 20 percent of the sale. When you use GoodShop, be sure to select Project Medishare for Haiti for “who you support.”

i_giveHow often do you search or shop online? A penny a search and a portion of each purchase will be donated to Project Medishare for free when you use iGive.

Searching or Shopping means a donation. It’s just that free and easy. A penny or more per search, a $5 bonus for your first purchase and up to 26% of your purchases at over 730 stores like Amazon, eBay, Travelocity, Home Depot, Staples, and many, many more. Plus you SAVE money with exclusive coupons/free shipping deals.

donation_streetShop on Donation Street and choose from hundreds of your favorite stores to do your online shopping. You can save money by using Donation Street’s online coupons and a portion of your purchases will be donated to Project Medishare.

These great websites give you the opportunity to avoid the crowded malls, shop from the comfort of your own home and make your dollar stretch in order to give a little more this holiday season! When you do your holiday shopping on these sites, don’t forget to choose to shop for Project Medishare for Haiti, Inc. As always, we greatly appreciate your support!

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