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Haiti - A Photo Documentary by Larry Davis

The Haiti Project - Letter from Dr. Thomas Ertle

The following is a letter from Hearts For Haiti spokesman, Dr. Thomas Ertle, detailing one of his recent medical trips to Haiti.

--Hearts For Haiti recently had a medical team go to Haiti. There were 17 people in attendance including 2 medical doctors, 1 podiatrist, 2 medical students, and 4 registered nurses, not to mention a host of support personnel, including one of my patients who celebrated her 77th birthday on her last night in Haiti. As usual, the group was from many different religious and social backgrounds, but also as usual we blended together to accomplish the job that was before us. This included holding medical clinic for the people of Bon Repos in Port au Prince, Mahotte, a fishing village about 1 hour north of Port au Prince and Doco II, a mountain village in Archaie.

As always, we saw hundreds of patients every day, most of them young children with upper respiratory infections, scabies, impetigo, and pneumonia. Almost all were suffering from various stages of malnutrition and dehydration. As usual most of them were infected with ascaris. Although we certainly didn't change the historical course of Haiti, I know that we relieved a lot of temporal suffering. After visiting Haiti for 15 years on more than 20 separate occasions, I thought that I had seen just about everything.

In addition, we made some new friends - Pastor Zack and Gretchen from the state of Indiana. Pastor Zack and Gretchen are American missionaries who introduced us to a new village that had grown up along a garbage dump on the North Road coming out of Port au Prince. I had passed by this area 100 times but never knew it existed. There were about 40 people living there. I only met 2 or 3 women and about the same number of men. The remainder were all young kids. Most all of them had pink eye, and were in a rather serious state of malnutrition.

One child that touched all of us was an 8-year old boy named Roosevelt. He looked about half his age, his arms were thin, and was very ill. His eyes were closed shut with infection and he walked with an awkward gait because of clubfoot surgery that he had and a very crude brace that he wore. I treated him with Erythromycin and eye ointment, and in two days he was smiling and acting like a normal kid.

The part that upset us the most was the fact that he was caretaker for his two-year-old sister for a good part of the day. His little sister was suffering from severe malnutrition and she could not walk, nor could she even hold her head without assistance. We hydrated this child and left some baby food with the mother. We instructed both the mother and Roosevelt how to take care of this child. On our last day in Haiti, we stopped for a visit and found the child actually sitting up on her own for the first time. Although the future is dim, hopefully our Band-Aid care will jump start this child and she will survive.

As Americans we feel the need to "accomplish" a lot of things. Although we did give out a lot of medication, and we helped to relieve a lot of illnesses, I am sure that the impact on our lives was at least as great. None of the team will ever be the same again. I remembered seeing all the tears in the eyes of the medical team after losing a newborn baby to pneumonia. I remember seeing Charlene, who is a cosmetics sales representative, scrubbing a grossly infected tropical ulcer on the leg of a man after telling me she thought she could never have the stomach to do that. I remember seeing her daughter, Courtney, a registered nurse, caring for a 2-year-old baby who suffered a 40% body surface area, full thickness burn. I could go on for hours talking about our experience in Haiti...

Dr. Thomas Ertle



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