Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing for Haiti

Today's article "Weighing the Lives of Babies in Haiti" which describes the heroic survival of a premature infant in the desperate and stark tent hospitals of Port au Prince served as a timely reminder that I leave for Port au Prince in just 12 days.  Donated boxes have piled up on my front porch and I am starting my prayers to the American Airlines gods. Hopefully they will still be compassionate enough to not charge me for my extra bags of supplies-(notably Purell and rubber gloves--the most urgent thing the last pediatrician to visit told me was in short supply) as they were when I visited in January.

The article describes the "Macgyver-like" ingenuity of the pediatricians who crafted an incubator out of a box, blankets, and a bare light bulb to ensure the survival of the tiny, but otherwise healthy infant.  It also paints a picture of the triage mentality among the Haitian clinicians who doubted this childs'  viability as well as the ingenuity and persistence of the American doctors.   Far be it for us to criticize their system for providing care and having to choose whom to treat and whom to give up on.  In addition to the realities of their situation which includes a lack of basics like water, Purell, or clean gloves, they undoubtedly suffer from a collective depression that has surely taken its toll after eight months of on-going post-traumatic stress. 

Which is probably why the director of the residency program asked me to prepare a talk on stress management to accompany the ones on menstrual disorders, pubertal development, diarrheal disease and cerebral palsy.  It is my hope that I will be able to teach these physicians some skills that have less to do with their current medical school curriculum but everything to do with survival.

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