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Project Medishare community health nurse Wiseline Celestine hands a box of oral rehydration packets to a community health agent. Project Medishare's health agents are working feverishly to educate the people in order to prevent cholera in their communities. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

Forty community health agents gathered at the Project Medishare office in Thomonde today to meet with Country Director Marie Chery, Dr. Serge Pintro, Zanmi Lasante doctors and Project Medishare medical staff. After the meeting the staff handed out water purification tablets and oral rehydration solution to community health agents. The health agents will distribute these items to those in their community reminding them how important it is they follow specific prevention guidelines.

Project Medishare  medical staff reinforced the prevention guidelines.

Federick Fanel, a health agent with Partners In Health’s sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, was also invited to attend to help spread the word in the community. Fanel, who is also a teacher in Thomonde, said he learned much at the meeting.

“They not only reinforced the importance of boiling and treating water, but also how important it is to disinfect the latrines. In rural Haiti, there are many people without latrines, so it is important that we instruct them how to properly build a pit latrine by digging a deep hole, and more importantly covering it properly after use.”

Each community health agent received a large box full of bottles of water purification tablets to distribute in their communities. They also received oral rehydration packets to have on hand in case they encountered anyone with cholera symptoms. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Fanel said that he also learned how to instruct others on how to make their own oral rehydration solution, if they did not have any of the ready-made packets on hand.

During the meeting Dr. Malou Phanord also stressed to the health agents how important home visits were at this time.

“Home visits are even more important today, because there may be some who have symptoms and stay at home,” she said.

Should a health agent notice a person with cholera symptoms, Project Medishare community health nurse Wiseline Celestine also gave specific instructions on what the health agent should do. Because cholera severely dehydrates its victim, it can kill within hours.

“If someone has diarrhea as a symptom, before you take them to the hospital, it is important to immediately start giving them the rehydration solution,” Celestine told the health agents. “This will help them stay hydrated on their way to the hospital. Many of the deaths in Artibonite were on the way to the hospital, because they were not able to hydrate before leaving for the hospital.”

She then talked about how it was necessary for all the water people used to be purified.

“It is important to tell them to use these purification tablets to not only purify the water they drink, but all water,” she said. “They must treat the water they bathe in, the water where they wash their dishes and their clothes. It is a lot of effort, but it is very necessary!”

Benet Joacime, a supervisor for health agents stationed in very rural Baille Touribe said he appreciates meetings like the one today because it allows for good communication between the Project Medishare medical staff and the health agents.

“When we learned that cholera had started in the Artibonite, we immediately went out to our sections and started educating about preventing cholera,” Joacime said.

For Joacime, he said it was important to make sure all of the community health agents in his area were organized and understood how to educate each area about prevention.

“It is a big responsibility because I have to make sure my community is safe,” he said, “so I have to put more leadership out to my agents, and be really organized to make sure everyone understand how important this is.”

He continued to explain how the health agents are using all of Project Medishare’s resources to spread the word. Health agents who oversee hard to reach areas are given motorcycles and all agents are given megaphones to speak to large groups and community education rallies.

At these community cholera prevention meetings, Benet said people listen closely.

“From what we see, people are very afraid of this disease,” he said. “They listen on the radio and they hear how bad things are in the Artibonite, so they really know how important it is to follow our instructions.”

When we were notified of the outbreak, the purification tablets and disinfectants weren’t available for us to distribute to the communities,” Joacime said. “People were worried. We continually heard ‘how can I protect my family?’ ‘How do we purify the water?’”

Without the purification tablets to distribute, Joacime said that health agents stressed the importance of boiling water, cooking food thoroughly and steering clear of raw fruits and vegetables. However, now they can help the people in their community go one step further in making sure the water they use is clean.

“Now that we have these important items to hand out to the people. We can go back to our communities and as we distribute the purification tablets and rehydration solution, we can reinforce the message,” he said. “We are so grateful that we have these to give to the people in our community to keep them safe.”

*Laurene Leger contributed to this story.

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CMO Dr. Eddy Carmant is joined by nurse liaison Maguy Rochelin measures one-year-old Franck Marden's head during a pediatric neurosurgery assessment. Marden was approved for endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) surgery which will take place this week when the pediatric neurosurgery team returns to Port-au-Prince. Photo by Laurene Leger.

By Jennifer Browning

Last weekend Dr. Keith Rich, a neurosurgeon from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, arrived at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare (HBMPM) to conduct a medical assessment of children who are suffering from hydrocephalus.

Dr. Rich was joined by Project Medishare Nurse Liaison Maguy Rochelin and HBMPM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eddy Carmant.

Dr. Keith Rich discusses CT scans of a patient during the pediatric neurosurgery assessment last weekend at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare. Dr. Carmant, a general surgeon in Haiti, is currently training to become specialized in neurosurgery. Photo by Laurene Leger.

Over the weekend the medical team assessed 50 children. Twenty children were approved for surgery, and doctors provided follow-up care to 21 other children who received surgery to correct their hydrocephalus from the previous May 2010 and November 2009 surgical trips.

Pediatric neurosurgery teams have been coming to Haiti since 2003 to provide surgeries to children with hydrocephalus. Currently, there is no formal neurosurgery training in Haiti, therefore Project Medishare’s ultimate goal is to teach Haitian surgeons how to provide neurosurgical care. This would include taking the surgeons and in a span of three years teach them how to perform neurosurgeries for adults and children and support them with equipment, training and supplies so they could become the foundation of a neurosurgical training program in the future.

Dr. Carmant, who is a general surgeon in Haiti, is Project Medishare’s first neurosurgeon trainie. Once Dr. Carmant completes his training he will be Haiti’s only pediatric neurosurgeon.

Project Medishare has formed strong partnerships with the following organizations and institutions in Miami and Haiti to provide operations to childrensuffering from hydrocephalus in Haiti: Miami Children’s Hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Hopital Universitaire de la Paix, STEM Ministries, Healing Hands for Haiti, Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Centre d’imagerie.

Click here to read more about previous pediatric neurosurgery trips supported by Project Medishare’s Specialty Surgical Program.

If you would like to help fund Project Medishare’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Program click here to make an online donation today.

*Laurene Leger contributed to this story.

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Project Medishare volunteer Dr. Eric Dehoux goes over a patient's chart with Sindy Abdon, a nurse working with spinal cord patients. Dr. Dehoux along with nurse practitioner Lorenette Patrick are working with Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare nurses to improve care for the spinal cord patients in the MedSurge unit. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

At Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare (HBMPM) motivated volunteers to work side by side as mentors to their Haitian colleagues in medicine, nursing and allied health professionals, in the traditional Project Medishare model of “Train the Trainer.”

Lorenette Patrick, a nurse practitioner who works at Jackson Memorial Medical Center’s spinal cord rehab, participated in training nurses working with spinal cord patients.

While volunteering at HBMPM, Lorenette not only teaches local nurses, but also teaches the patient and their family members basic lessons on how to care for people with spinal cord injuries. This is mainly teaching them the importance of proper bowel care for these patients, as well as how to prevent bedsores.

Sindy Abdon, a nurse working in the spinal cord unit, said she has learned a lot from Lorenette and others who have come to volunteer at HBMPM.

“One of the most important thing I have learned is the bowel care for the patients because it is so important for these types of patients so they don’t become septic and have troubles from infection,” she said. “Also I have been learning a better way to turn and position the patients to help prevent wounds and bedsores.”

For the spinal cord patient and their families, Lorenette presents these care giving tasks as important jobs.

“By teaching them basic spinal cord injury care the nurses here and the patient’s family members can understand why the patients have these specific problems,” she said. “This helps them fully understand why these problems need to be addressed immediately or the patient is going to have serious problems.”

Sindy said she feels that the training program at HBMPM is very important because not only is she able to further her own education as a licensed nurse, but she is also learning how to teach her nursing colleagues.

Sidney Abdon prepares daily medication for the spinal cord patients at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

“The way they teach me is to learn one thing and then practice it. This helps me also learn how to teach other Haitian nurses how to care for our spinal cord patients here. It is important for me to be able to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” she said. “But now, with the volunteers here to help us, I am learning how to better take care of our patients.”

Lorenette said by mid-week she was already seeing progress.

“I was pleased to see a nurse was already starting to teach others,” Lorenette said. “It reinforces that they are the ones who are going to be in charge and not be intimidated by volunteers coming from the U.S.”

For Lorenette seeing the Haitian nurses take charge is important and shows that Project Medishare’s mission to empower the Haitian people is being accomplished here.

“It shows how much Project Medishare is invested in the patients here and how they have the Haitian people’s well being at heart,” Lorenette said. “When you come here and work you see how much is being done for the Haitian people. [The doctors and nurses] are not only helping earthquake victims, but they are also helping people who had no other means of getting care and here they continue to do that.”

Project Medishare continues to stand committed to Haiti nationwide. Training programs like this one that is improving nursing care for spinal cord patients in Haiti, is just one of the many ways we are working to improve Haiti’s healthcare infrastructure.

If you would like to support training programs like this one, please click here to make an online tax-deductible donation today.

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By Jennifer Browning

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson vowed, during a visit to the Miami’s Ryder Trauma Center last week, to continue his efforts to secure funds for the Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, a critical care and rehabilitation hospital, operated by  Project Medishare and the Global Institute in Port-au-Prince.

Originally the critical care and rehabilitation hospital was located in four tents at the edge of the airport for five months following the January earthquake. The hospital joined forces with to an existing community hospital in June and continues to serve as a vital critical care and rehabilitation hospital as well as a training center for local physicians, nurses and allied health professionals eager to fill the large gaps in Haiti’s shattered health care system.

Dr. Barth Green, co-founder and president of Project Medishare said the organization is counting on a $17.7 million federal grant to operate the hospital over the next 18 months and help Haiti build a sustainable health care system. Nelson wrote a letter urging the U.S. State Department to direct a portion of the Haiti relief funding in the 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act to the hospital.

Days after the January 12 earthquake, the senator praised Americans for their quick generosity to the earthquake relief effort. The senator singled out UM’s Miller School of Medicine for having the first medical team on the ground in Haiti which was led by Dr. Green.The team began treating the critically wounded within five minutes of landing at the devastated Port-au-Prince airport  twelve hours after quake.

Project Medishare’s programs currently rely heavily on independent donations. If you would like to make a donation to help us continue our important work through projects like those at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, Haiti’s ONLY critical care hospital, please click here to make an online donation today.

Source: University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

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By Jennifer Browning

Dousma madame, dousma,..” Sammie Jean Charles tells a patient to go slowly as she moves her leg backwards and starts to feel the resistance from the band.

Sammie, a physical therapy tech in training, is working with Roslyn Gillen, an occupational therapist volunteering this week at Bernard Mevs/Project

Sammie Jean Charles assists Roslyn Gillen with a patient's physical therapy. As part of the physical therapy tech training program, students shadow and assist volunteer therapists with patient's exercises. “We are trying to reinforce whatever they are working on this week as well as allowing them to assist us where they can," Roslyn said. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

Medishare.

The recent move to the community hospital has created also a partnership. Project Medishare volunteers are now working side-by-side with Haitian physicians, surgeons, nurses, and pharmacists in an effort to “train the trainer.”  Those coming to volunteer at the trauma and rehabilitation hospital, are not only coming to work, but to also share their knowledge with their Haitian colleagues as part of  Project Medishare’s medical educational training program. Currently, there are five students going through training to be a physical therapy tech.

Sammie began working with Project Medishare as an interpreter. Through working with the physical therapists in transfers of spinal cord patient and out-patient rehabilitation, he became interested in the field.

“I wanted to learn about physical therapy, but there isn’t a school in Haiti,” Sammie said, “and now the people here with Project Medishare are helping us get training.”

And if there were a school for physical therapy in Haiti, Sammie said, it would be too expensive for him to attend.  He sees the additional benefit.

“Many Haitians have the willingness to learn, but to get an education, to learn a skill many times you need the money to pay for the school, but with Medishare here, they are training me for free,” Sammie said. “They are giving me a great opportunity to learn to be a physical therapy tech.”

Alyson Cavanaugh is one of the two long-term volunteers who are training students like Sammie.

“The overall goal is to teach our PT techs to be able to take over this position so that when someone comes in with an injury, they are able to evaluate them and to provide treatment services,” she said. “Eventually when we are gone we want them to be able to do basic physical therapy. “

So far the physical therapists in training have learned basic physical therapy exercises, lower extremity anatomy, and they are beginning to participate in evaluating patients.

In addition to this, they are receiving a hands-on experience as they work with the volunteer physical therapists in assigning exercises and providing patient education regarding the exercises prescribed for physical therapy.

Roslyn Gillen, an occupational therapist from Victoria, B.C. who is volunteering this week, said Sammie shadows her as part of his training. Roslyn also constantly reviews with Sammie on the information he has already learned.

Physical therapy tech student, Sammie Jean Charles and Marie Carmelle Charles, work with a volunteer on range of motion exercises. "In Haiti we have a dream that we will be able to learn," Marie said. "Now with this training opportunity, that dream is coming true." Photo by Jennifer Browning.

“Right now we are focusing on testing their knowledge regarding range of motion,” she said. “We are trying to reinforce whatever they are working on this week as well as allowing them to assist us where they can.”

The PT tech students have also attended a three-day training on wheelchair fitting as well as training in wound care.

Alyson said she appreciates how eager the students are about learning all the necessary skills.

“They are super excited to learn and they are eating up every little bit of information,” she said. “There is a lot of memorization involved, so they are practicing each and everyday between each other and reviewing the anatomy. “

The physical therapy tech students are also requesting to gain more responsibilities in dealing with patients. For Alyson, this is a good sign.

“They are asking now to be more involved with transfers, so they are taking the lead in our spinal cord unit to get the patients out of bed,” she said. “They are all independent in transfers working with spinal cord patients.”

Another physical therapy tech student, Aviça Charles said this is not only a great learning experience for him, but a great opportunity for him to help others in the future.

“I am very happy to have this program here, because too many times when someone here in Haiti breaks their leg or arm they may not get the therapy they need to get better,” Aviça said. “With this program, and with the training I receive I will be able to one day help people get healthy.”

Six months after the January earthquake, Project Medishare continues to work in Haiti in an effort not only to treat the people of Haiti, but also to better train the medical staff there in order to empower the Haitian people.

Click here to make an online donation to show your support in continuing Project Medishare’s medical educational training program.  Funding is still extremely important to continue these important, long-term life saving efforts.

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