Haitian Vacation: First couple of days

Well, I made it to Ranquitte in one piece. It was 20 hours of travelling, with an hour outside the Cap Haitien airport, hoping someone would come get me. Turns out, I did get picked up by Chachou and Donal, and delivered to Ranquitte 2 hours later. I don’t know if I could convey how grateful I was to have food and a bed to sleep in, but I was pretty liberal with hugs and “I love you” to anyone who handed me food.

After a good night’s rest, I spent the first day checking out houses that need roofs. Edelin, our Haitian Host, has a seemingly unending list of people who need roofs, so I headed out with a guide and Chachou translating. I had a feeling we were going to be going pretty far to see the homes and meet the families since Edelin insisted “You’re going to hike”. Luckily, I’ve hiked with Haitians before, and knew that he wasn’t underselling it. We headed out over the mountains, to the villages of Pinal, Afikens, and Bradnels.

We went about 7 miles, up and over mountains, on trails run out by recent rains. We managed to see 7 houses in just under 5 hours, meeting the families and hearing their stories at each stop. Even by Ranquitte standards, the families are living in poverty, and a roof will keep the rain out, or allow them finally move in to their own home. During the hike, the 90 degree heat and 1,000% humidity reminded me that I was far from home. But the steady stream of people on the mountain trails, going about their daily business, carrying heavy loads to bring food and water to their families, was a glaring reminder that these people are some of the toughest on the planet. If the hardest thing about my day was a 5 hour hike, then I’ve got it pretty easy.

During the first day, a family asked us to come to their house to help. They didn’t know I was a nurse, but the father of the family was sick, and they were desperate. They lived near the peak of a mountain, and I saw a middle-aged man lying on the ground outside their wooden home. At first glance I could see the swelling in his hands and legs, and after speaking to his wife, it turned out that he’d been unable to walk more than a few feet since April, due to the abdominal pain and swelling in his legs. I had brought a cheap stethoscope, so I did an assessment and talked to the family about getting him to clinic, but after seeing him try to walk, it was clear there was no way he was safely getting down the mountain, let alone the hour hike to Ranquitte. I told them I would try to come back with medicine for him tomorrow, but that he is very sick. That afternoon, I followed up with Pam, our Peacework leader, and she agreed that he sounds like a heart failure patient, with ascites related to a liver disease. We only have one diuretic with us, so I agreed to take some to him the next day and follow-up.

IMG_0373posted with permission from the patient

I went back to visit the patient today, making the trek up the mountain with medicine in hand. I spent a solid 20 minutes going over medication education, and another 10 minutes making sure his wife understood that it would make her and the children sick if they took it. I’ll be going back one more time on the trip, hopefully to see a less fluid overloaded patient, capable of walking down the mountain to get access to care.

Keep posted for more updates and pictures!

Thanks for reading!
Josh

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