Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blan, Blan, Blan...Bla, Bla, Bla...

Tara is taking a day off from writing, so she has turned the reigns over to me for today.  Today was LONG.  Not particularly eventful, and I dare say we didn't help anyone with anything today, but it was none the less, extremely LONG.

Our day starts at 7AM with a pick up in a, well, pick-up truck. It has two rows up front, and two bench seats in the back with a surrounding guard rail.  It looks something like this.
Our transportation to the town of Thomassique.

I'll lose track for a second and give you a bit about Haitian transportation. We have found that it is either done with motorcycles (motos) or some sort of truck or large industrial sized truck/van.  We have seen up to 5 people crammed onto a moto at once, three adults and two kids/infants. This is our primary transportation to the hospital. Tara and I on the back of one bike, Liz as a solo rider with her driver. No one wears a helmet in town. But, they are nice and go slow for the Americans when we are in town.  The other mode is something like what we had today, a vehicle of  some sort CRAMMED to the hilt with passengers and the like.  Some are called 'tap taps' because when you want to get off you tap tap the roof of the truck and they let you out.  The best way I can describe what these look like is a London tube on four wheels.  People, groceries, chickens (both dead and alive) shoved into the back of a pickup.  Now, ours today wasn't quite that bad going, but we were pretty tight coming back. I think moto driver must be the number one occupatiion in Hinche. They are everywhere. 

Our clinic day was relitively uneventful. We did no more than 15 prenatal exams for the midwives. They did the vitals and questions and we took turns doing the measurements. We learned that they measure for malnurishment by measuring the upper arm circumference. It seemed odd to us, because they did it on everyone regardless of whether they LOOKED malnurished or not. We also learned that all moms get put on an antiparasitic drug, albendazole, in the second trimester because of the risk of parasitic disease in the mom. They also take a firm stance on anemia and treat every mom with iron and vitamin C and write scripts for both at every appoitment. Overall, I don't think we helped change anything or suggest anything new. They pretty much had it under control. Was there some things I might have done differently? Sure. But, with the limited resources and lack of ultrasound, there's not much better that they could do.

The clinic/hospital in Thomassique.

Our way back home was just as dusty and bumpy as the way there. Thankfully, it had cooled down and the ride wasn't too bad. What struck me on the way out there, and really on the way into Hinche in the first place was the shear poverty. The houses that lined the road were really just haphazardly put up structures that often looked like a good huff and a puff and they could blow that stick house down. Hardly any house had obvious signs that it had electricity. Most likely, none had running water or sewage.  Yet, the kids looked happy and playful.  Any time we passed a group of young kids, we got greeted with 'blan blan blan' which comes out as 'bla bla bla' This means 'white' in Creole and is what they call any white foreigner they see.  But beyond anything, the part of Haitian culture that has struck me is that they are immensely prideful.  I can't recount how many women and children I saw sweeping their dirt entry ways.  It's dirt!  But, yet, they had to keep it tidy and tidy it was.  And at church on Sunday, you would have never ever guessed that the majority of these families lived in shacks without electricity and water.  Their suits were pressed..heck, they WORE suits! And the women's clothes were like they were brand new.  Every single one of them was dressed like they had money and all of our luxuries, but I know they don't. They just seem to be able to make the best out of the situation.

Ah, I almost forgot. Our ride back home included another passenger. Our ride out to Thomassique was 2 hours. The truck continued another hour to take the midwives to another mobile clinic.  In their clinic, they saw a mom at term with severe preeclampsia. They started an IV and then waited for the day to end until they could transport her back to St. Therese in Hinche. Here we have a severely preeclamptic mom at term with a long since run out IV bottle riding over bumpy terrain for, what was for her, a three hour ride to the hospital. No monitoring, no mag drip, no functional IV at this point.  There really isn't a better way to do it though. If she hadn't had a clinic visit today she may have seized and died at home with no easy way to get help. Who knows how far she came to her clinic appointment. Our midwives today not only have a clinic, but they have the nearest birth center to Hinche. They don't have OR capabilites and don't do high risk, but they told us today that it is not uncommon for women to walk....walk for days in labor or with ruptured membranes to get to the closest birth center! We have so much to be thankful for in our community. We have good roads, good means of transportation, good emergency response...even our friends in the villages have access to LifeFlight or some sort of medivac to get them to good care. We should never ever take that for granted.

I will truly never forget this experience.  Even though I don't feel like I made much of a difference today, I know that the memories of this will always  be with me.  I'll never look at MY house the same.  I'll never underestimate how easy we have it with getting groceries!  (I asked our translator what was in this one particular donkey pack and he said it looked like supplies and foods that the gentleman had gone to the market for to bring back to his town to sell.  The market is 2 hours by TRUCK!!!  How long do you think it takes by donkey???) But most of all, I will remember the little kids chasing after us...some little naked boys...all hollering 'Bla! Bla! Bla!'

Tomorrow is a hospital day!  I can't wait for that adventure.


  1. Keep posting something. You're gratitude spreads like wildfire to the rest of US. I am sure that a lot of people riding along feel the same as I do. I wish I was there and experiencing all this along the side of you guys. This is my goal to be able to go to a 3rd world country and serve knowing there is know payment to expect in return. I hope you guys go again and take other midwives with you. Because I will totally be in that group. I am so excited to read how your day went. Im constantly checking FB for pictures and videos of your day. Thank you for keeping us all updated!! Love you guys <3

  2. Two of my daughters are in the fundraising stage of their soon to be trip to a couple Haiti Orphanages. I have been showing them your blog and they are so excited by what you are doing and feel the confirmation that they are going to the right place.

    Blessing to you both Tamara Larson Kenai Peninsula AK