Read the first part of Bri's journey here.
Blood pressure cuff, thermometer, pen-light, stethoscope, “BEEP BEEP”. The Tap Tap sounded it’s horn, interrupting my nervous review of my medical equipment and supplies.
It was 7:30am and instead of catching the subway, I was clambering into the back of a pick up truck for a ride to our first day of clinic. We pulled into a rural schoolyard, 25 minutes outside the city and began to set up our clinic using school benches inside an old stone building with a half-finished roof.
We began triaging patients by taking their vitals. The lump of nervousness sitting in my throat thickened slightly when I realized there weren’t quite enough translators to go around and I would need to rely on my rudimentary French to get by. We managed to get basic patient information – name, date of birth, reason for seeking care and so on – using limited knowledge of Creole and a heck of a lot of hand gestures.
When we had prioritized 40 patients based on urgency of their concerns, with the help of the 1st year students and a translator, I was able to start taking patients on my own. We conducted our visits in the back of the flatbed motorcycle since all of the benches were occupied.
When we’d come to a likely diagnosis, Dr. Sean or Dr. Sarah would arrive on the scene to confirm or deny our suspicions. I learned very quickly that it’s nearly impossible to be right about a diagnosis or treatment protocol 100% of the time on your very first day (a shocking revelation to my type A personality). The very first little boy I treated went home with a year’s supply of multivitamins thanks to a Vitamin Angels grant, along with some local, readily available home remedies to try.
Common patient concerns were remarkably similar to those of patients in Canada including high blood pressure, headaches and stomachaches. The root cause of these complaints, however, was often extremely different than it would be back home. A headache might be caused by muscle tension due to carrying 5-gallon pails of water for long distances, but was more likely to be caused by dehydration. High blood pressure was often a result of cooking with a cheap but unhealthy product called “Magi” which contains high MSG.
We continued the week working in various clinic locations, from schools to churches and even Haitian medical clinics, where we were able to learn from and work with Cuban-trained, Haitian physicians. After each clinic shift, it was comforting to know that Drs. Sean and Sarah are doing everything they can to ensure sustainability of care for their patients.
Even after I returned home, I knew that my patients could return to the various clinics and see other students from other colleges across North America. Moving forward, NWB will work to train local Haitians as community health workers to improve the longevity of the impact.
NWB was founded in 2004 to empower communities in need through Naturopathic Medicine. When not saving lives, cooking in a solar oven or conquering malnutrition through aquaponics, you'll find us training Community Health Workers and the next generation of global health heroes. Our student chapters stretch along North America as we spread the lessons of natural medicine around the world.