(Originally posted October 29, 2011)
I made it here! I’ve started my third full day, met all the staff and kiddos, killed dozens of spiders and let many more live, lathered myself in DEET and still been eaten alive by mosquitoes, eaten and enjoyed several Haitian meals, showered in a cold trickle of water, and fallen in love with 61 little ones. Well some more than others, but they’re all adorable.
I wish there was a crash course for third world (fourth world?) medicine in an orphanage. 61 infants and toddlers living together in Haiti seem to have different health issues than 5 older adults getting joint replacements in Long Beach, CA. Go figure! So I am learning as I go, reading nursing textbooks like crazy, ravenous for knowledge and insight.
My first big task is learning names. I can’t give medications or compare yesterday to today if I don’t know who these cuties are. The first handful are easy: there are a few kids still here from my last visit and some really stand out with unique features and personalities. The next 20 or so required a little more effort: they’re all starting to look similar. I think I’m up to about 35 now, which is not bad after only two and a half days, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall. My housemate, Chante, has been a huge help, quizzing me with pictures and with the kids who are clinging to all my extremities, but I’m not sure how much more I can fit in my head. I’m frustrated with myself and worried that I won’t be able to do this.
Along with our current kiddos, we provide assessments and basic health care for our graduates as well. Basically, there is always someone (usually more than one) who is sick or malnourished or has a skin infection or something. Many of these conditions I just haven’t seen before. This kid has a cough, but lots of the kids have coughs. I think that’s measles, but we all get vaccinated for that back home. I think that’s just a diaper rash, but I’m not sure what other rashes and organisms are running around here. I know how to get a bowel movement from an adult after surgery, but I’m not exactly sure with a tiny kiddo on the Medika Mamba program (they eat primarily fortified peanut butter). I rely heavily on books and the other staff and the internet. Often, I just don’t know. I’m frustrated with myself and worried that I won’t be able to do this.
I dreamt of being great at this. Of picking up names and diagnoses with ease. Knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. Not being bothered by the bugs and the heat. Fitting in perfectly with the other staff members. Learning Kreyol quickly.
But if I let these dreams die
If I lay down all my wounded pride
If I let these dreams die
Will I find that letting go lets me come alive
So empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with You