Posts Tagged ‘healthcare in Haiti’

In July 2011, Jimmy arrived at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare exhibiting symptoms of a rare condition called myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disorder, which involves the muscles and the nerves that control them. Our hospital staff and medical volunteers treated Jimmy. The volunteer group that week was from Eastern Health, an organization that went to Haiti with Project Medishare all the way from Newfoundland, Canada.

It was clear that Jimmy would not be able to leave our Intensive Care Unit due to needing intravenous medication every two and a half hours to control his condition. In the United States, myasthenia gravis is treated with a daily medication and patients lead very normal lives. In a third world country like Haiti, quality of life is much different with myasthenia gravis. In order to leave the hospital, Jimmy would need oral pyridostigmine, an expensive medication that is not available in Haiti. Without this medication, he would need to be an inpatient indefinitely. As a 21-year-old first-year medical student, this was a debilitating and heartbreaking realization.

Only two short weeks after the Canadian volunteer group returned home from Haiti, a one-year supply of oral pyridostigmine arrived at the Project Medishare warehouse in Miami, FL. The medication was delivered to Port-au-Prince that Saturday morning by our weekly volunteer staff.

The Intensive Care Unit coordinator at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, Judith, gave Jimmy the medication and explained to him that with the medicine he would be able to return home and lead a normal life. Jimmy had been ill since April and was near death just a few short weeks ago. When he was asked what the first thing he wanted to do when he left the hospital, Jimmy stated, “return to medical school.”  None of the hospital staff had known he was a medical student until that moment.

Jimmy wanted us to extend his sincere thanks to the Canadian group who, by sending this medication, gave him the gift of continuing to live his life and allowing a (future) fellow doctor graduate in a country much in need of medical personnel.

Jimmy with his mother at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare

The hospital staff sends their best wishes to Jimmy and his family. And again, thank you to the Eastern Health Canadian team for sending us pyridostigmine.

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My Project Medishare
By Karen Miller

I am adventurous by nature and a traveler at heart, so last summer when I considered what the next stage of my life would look like as I headed into my thirties sent me into panic mode.  I have always wanted to do medical work overseas and it felt like my opportunity to do so was “now or never,” so it had to be now.  Aside from becoming a Nurse Anesthetist, my decision to move to Haiti last September was the best one I ever made.

Family members through CFM brought me to Haiti.  They offered me a place to stay and the emotional support that every person needs when taking on an adventure like this.  When I arrived, I didn’t know what I was getting into.  Where would I work?  How would I get around?  What exactly would I be doing?  Everything was up in the air.  I knocked on the gate of Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, and little did I know, I was home.  The four buildings behind a large guarded orange gate would challenge me, frustrate me, reward me, and change me.  The people I saw hustling around would become dear friends, coworkers, or maybe just a nuisance, but a part of me nonetheless.

My first job assignment was to work as an anesthetist in the operating rooms.  We had new volunteers coming every week and sometimes we would have anesthesia help, and sometimes we wouldn’t.  Dorothy was my mentor, a locally trained Anesthesiologist who had the patience of a saint.  I will never forget my first patient; he was a little 5 month old with hydrocephalus.  I wasn’t used to doing pediatric cases, and the resources were so limited and unfamiliar that I wasn’t sure I could.  But, the weeks went by and I slowly became less green.

My second week, I was asked by our wonderful medical director to become the director of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the hospital.  This was intimidating for two reasons.  The first was – Director?  The second was the fact that our hospital’s ICU is the only one in the country.  We had all the ventilators, all the medications, and most of the gadgets to offer.  That meant if someone needed to be intubated and mechanically ventilated, they came to us.  If somebody needed support with medications, they came to us.  With only four beds in the ICU, it amazed me that we were not overflowing continuously.  The people of Haiti are very resilient and they can withstand almost anything thrown at them, but, just in case their defenses were down, we were there.

I can’t even begin to describe how blessed I felt to have helped each one of our patients.  As I am writing this, I can see their faces.  Some stories ended badly, some ended triumphantly, but we always tried our best with what we had.

The most rewarding part of my journey was working with Haitian ICU nurses, all of whom I grew to know and love.  When I met them, they were slightly standoffish.  Most likely they were tired of all the new faces, and medical volunteers constantly telling them the “correct” way to practice nursing.  I slowly gained their trust and their respect and together we made a great team.  With their increase in confidence came a new desire for learning; they were constantly asking great questions and studying on their own.  I started holding some classes for all the hospital nurses, and everyone loved it.  They would repeatedly ask me to teach them again.  It made me realize how much I took my education for granted during my schooling years.  Groaning about doing homework, or missing an event to study seems silly to me now.  What an amazing opportunity we have in the United States, to pick up a book in our native language and read it; to be able to research anything that comes to mind using a search engine.  I wish that everyone had the opportunities for education that I did.

Last month, as my time in Haiti was winding down, I began training one of our very talented Haitian nurses to take over my position as Director of the ICU.  She is perfect for the job and I’m so proud of her and all of the nurses for their dedication to nursing, to Hospital Bernard Mevs, and to the people of Haiti.  The ICU will still be receiving volunteers, but the nurses have really made it their own unit.

My future plans include another adventure – Boston this time.  I will begin my career as a pediatric nurse anesthetist at Children’s Hospital Boston this September.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to have learned about myself and the people of Haiti.  It has entirely changed the direction of my life.  I am also grateful to Hartville Mennonite Church and CFM for granting me that opportunity.  It would not have been possible without them!

Karen Miller with a patient at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare

From everyone at Project Medishare for Haiti:


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Rachel Belt is the Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She has an extensive history of helping others. Before joining Project Medishare, Rachel worked for Doctors Without Borders in New York, World Health Organization in Geneva, The Medical Research Council in Uganda and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York. Rachel was born in Connecticut but lived in England and on an island off of Washington State. She is a graduate of Columbia University and had been looking to move her job abroad when one of her friends sent her the job description for the Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator. She flew down a few days later for an interview and moved to Haiti only three weeks after seeing the job posting.

After joining the Project Medishare staff in March, Rachel has relocated her home to Delmas 41, the staff house, which is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. She shares the apartment with Brittany, Chief Nursing Officer of Pediatrics. Rachel usually wakes up around 6:00am to coordinate transportation at the hospital in via telephone. Most days the staff of Hospital Bernard Mevs travels together to work, which is about a 20 minute drive, and arrive at the hospital around 8am. Upon her arrival, Rachel makes sure the food has been distributed, answers questions and checks emails. Most of her work is coordinating the arrival of people with the Project Medishare staff in Miami, dealing with the needs of the volunteers currently on the ground, organizing transportation and showing visitors around the hospital. She spends a lot of her day answering questions as there are roughly 30 new people at the hospital every week. The weekends are particularly busy with the arrival and departure of the volunteer teams on Saturdays.

Rachel oversees approximately 35 to 50 volunteers each week at the hospital. The Project Medishare volunteers range anywhere in age from 18 to 65 years old and they come from everywhere. Many of the volunteers come from New York and Florida but Rachel said that they are now seeing more volunteers from Canada and the West Coast. Aside from her regular job responsibilities, she likes to play with the children around the hospital and feed babies in the Pediatrics ward. Each day she leaves the hospital between 7pm and 8pm. After work, Rachel goes home and cooks dinner. She then either studies, listens to the radio, reads or visits with other members of staff in the house. She normally goes to bed between 10pm and 11pm.

In Her Own Words

“I really like the mission and the staff. I just extended my time here to return to school full time in 2012 rather than in September since I felt I was learning so much from the managers I work with here at Project Medishare in Haiti. There is so much work to be done and encouraging people to engage in work to help others is a powerful way to change the way the world works. Making a good experience for the volunteers is a way to help widen the network of people willing to help others.  The experience leaves a lasting impression on you and one that makes people’s families and friends more aware of the needs here and in other places. The people that come to volunteer are inspired by our Haitian staff and by their fellow volunteers and go on to engage coworkers, family and friends in their own efforts. I love the enthusiasm and perspective that people bring every week.”

When asked what the most pressing needs are in her department Rachel said to donate “time! Come join us for a week or two. We need medical and some non-medical staff.” If you are interested in volunteering with Project Medishare, please click here!

Rachel Belt, Volunteer & Logistics Coordinator with a patient at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare

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Jason Miller is the in-country Rehabilitation Director for Project Medishare. He travels throughout Haiti to the clinics for the amputee program that are put on in remote locations whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Jason explains that, through a local contact, they are able to set up the site and dates of clinics and he helps coordinate the patients. On one particular trip, they brought a doctor to handle medical cases and were able to treat over a total of 60 patients in just two days! That included their rehab, prosthetic, wound care and medical patients.

Jason was with Project Medishare hosting a clinic in La Gonave when he met an 8-year-old Haitian girl. Julandia is a spina bifida patient that had arrived at the clinic with bad ulcers (wounds) on her feet. She had no sensation in her feet so a donated hand-bike seemed like a good way to allow her feet to heal while she could be mobile and able to exercise in her home. Julandia was given the bike the first day of the clinic and she was able to drive and steer herself with only a small amount of training. By the end of the day, she was maneuvering the hand-bike on her own and quite happy. Medical Teams International, MTI, is the organization that donated the PET International bike that Julandia now owns. Because of the severity of her spina bifida, Julandia will not be able to walk. This makes providing her with a means of independent mobility so very important.

Jason Miller, Julandia & her grandmother

Thanks to Jason Miller, the Project Medishare prosthetics team, PET International & Medical Teams International for providing Julandia with this hand-bike and, ultimately, the opportunity for independent mobility.

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Mother’s Day 2011 is almost here! This is a very special Mother’s Day for us at Project Medishare as we open our first maternal health center in Marmont in the Central Plateau of Haiti. With your help, this year we would like to pay tribute to the expectant mothers that we are going to serve in the Central Plateau. Mother’s Day is a great occasion for you to honor and thank the woman who gave you life, continues to give you love and looks after you in any way that she can. You can do your part to help expectant mothers in the Central Plateau by sponsoring one woman for just $25 dollars. This small donation will go a long way by providing pre-natal and post-natal care for the mother and infant.

Expectant mothers in Haiti's Central Plateau. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

In Haiti, and particularly in the Central Plateau, the high rate of maternal mortality remains a challenge. Haiti has the top maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere and 80% of women in Haiti deliver their newborns at home without any skilled caregivers. One out of every 37 female deaths in Haiti is linked to high-risk pregnancy. Project Medishare has been working tirelessly toward decreasing these statistics.

Construction of our new maternal health center in Marmont is complete and the staff has been hired. Thanks to the Greig Family, who generously financed the construction, expectant Mothers in the Central Plateau will now have access to lifesaving health services. The center will offer access to quality child delivery services free of charge including comprehensive pre-natal and post-natal care. We expect that the center will deliver between 900-1,200 babies per year and care for thousands more.

Project Medishare internist, Dr. Gerarde Mondesir said, “It is essential for women in Marmont to have a center in their community where they can go to give birth.” She hopes that by having a maternal health center nearby, fewer women give birth at home, thereby decreasing the maternal mortality rate in the community. The new maternal health center is equipped with a full laboratory, incubators, and examination and observation rooms thanks to a generous equipment donation provided by our partner organization, MedShare. With your donation, we will be able to continue to treat thousands of women, maintain the maternal health center and decrease preventable deaths of mothers during childbirth.

What better way to honor a special mother in your life than by donating towards the improved health of a future mother in Haiti? This Mother’s Day we ask that you help us honor the women we serve in the Central Plateau by making a donation of $25. For each gift of $25, we will be able to serve one more mother with pre and post-natal education and care this year.  Please help us reach our goal of 1,200 gifts to ensure that we are able to care for each and every one of the mothers who so desperately need it. You can donate directly by clicking here!

The maternal health center is scheduled to open the first week of May, just in time for many Haitian mothers’ first Mother’s Day. Thank you for helping make this Mother’s Day special for expectant mothers in the Central Plateau of Haiti!

A healthy newborn baby at a Project Medishare facility. Photo by Jennifer Browning.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti (Thursday, April 14, 2011) – In recognition of the ongoing commitment of the American Red Cross to Haiti, an American Red Cross National Board of Governors member and her husband have agreed to donate funds to construct a lifesaving 5 bed pediatric respiratory unit and purchase a Digital X-ray Machine for Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This 5 bed pediatric respiratory unit will be built as an addition to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit currently operating at the hospital, and will provide a sterile environment to house the most critically ill children and infants who remain on ventilator support.

“After the catastrophic earthquake in January, we treated tens of thousands of Haitians; and continue today to treat as many critically ill and injured patients as any major metropolitan medical center in the United States,” said Dr. Barth Green, the Co-Founder and President of Project Medishare. Green continued, “This generous donation will enable the hospital to continue the lifesaving work and patient care for the most critically ill and injured adults, infants and children in Haiti. We are so grateful to the American Red Cross and to this family foundation for their support.”

Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the general public, and it remains the only Critical Care and Trauma Hospital in Haiti. In the last six months alone thanks to the support of the American Red Cross grant, this hospital has been able to treat over 50,000 patients and perform thousands of lifesaving operations. Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare employs over 200 Haitian staff including allied healthcare professionals and support staff. They are joined by a dozen full time international staff that provide specialized services, including an on-the-job mentoring program to build capacity in the healthcare sector in Haiti.

A young patient in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare

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Wilfred Macena

Twenty-six year old Wilfred Macena was at work welding in a shop when the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. Like so many others, Wilfred was trapped under the rubble. He was able to free himself but not without escaping injury. Wilfred damaged his right leg when it was crushed by falling debris.

Wilfred stayed at home with his injured leg for three days before finally getting to Adventist Hospital. He waited at Adventist Hospital for four days but ended up leaving out of frustration as he was never seen by a doctor and went to the neighboring Dominican Republic. Seven days after being injured in the earthquake, Wilfred had an above the knee amputation on his right leg in the Dominican Republic. At first he was very hesitant about the procedure. He asked the doctor what his prognosis would be following the amputation and was told that he would be able to walk again with a prosthetic leg which made him feel comfortable with the procedure.

On April 1, 2010, Wilfred went to the Project Medishare field hospital to have his leg fitted for a prosthetic. Upon his return to the hospital on April 3, the staff explained to Wilfred how to walk with the prosthetic and within five minutes he was up and running! Dr. Barth A. Green, co-founder of Project Medishare, was in the tent and asked Wilfred if he wanted a job with Project Medishare. Wilfred currently works in the Prosthetics and Orthotics laboratory and clinic at the Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare. He takes measurements for prosthetic limbs and knows how to fix them. He has learned how to speak and understand English while working for Project Medishare. Wilfred is also a mentor to anyone that is facing amputation and for those being fitted for prosthetics. He is the perfect example that life does go on even after amputation and is a constant source of encouragement and inspiration. He is playing soccer again with the Project Medishare Team Zaryen Amputee Soccer team. He has a one and a half year old and is expecting his second child in July.

Wilfred’s spirit is incomparable. It takes two hours to get from his tent home to work every day by taking three tap taps. He repeats the same long, treacherous trip to get home each night. He says that he is extremely grateful to Project Medishare because if he did not work there he would not be able to work as he lost everything, including his welding tools, in the earthquake. It is fair to say that the feeling is mutual; Project Medishare is very grateful to have Wilfred as part of our team.

Wilfred Macena at work in the Prosthetics and Orthotics laboratory and clinic at the Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare

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