This blog post was written by Graham Barbour, GHF ’17.
After starting the day with a delicious breakfast of fried eggs and fresh fruit, we were off to Saint Luc’s, a private sector hospital not too far from our guest house. It has one of the only cholera treatment rehydration centers left in Port au Prince, an Emergency Room, an ICU, two operating rooms, an endoscopy suite, an outpatient ward, a lab, and a pharmacy. Saint Luc’s was originally an offshoot of Saint Damien’s, a pediatric hospital founded and run by humanitarian Father Rick Frechette. St. Luc’s, the adult hospital, was founded in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake. St. Luc’s became an official hospital once it developed its cholera ward in response to the massive cholera outbreak a few years ago.
Once we arrived, Dr. Colas and Dr. Jean Francois, internal medicine doctors, gave us a tour of the medical facilities. Our first stop was the Surgical Suite, which has two operating rooms, which had state of the art technology by Haitian standards, but is unfortunately underfunded so it could only operate two times a week. In order to have the OR open every day, at least four fully trained surgeons would have to be hired, along with the accompanying staff, such as an anesthesiologist. Our next stop was the radiology suite, where we saw one of only five CT scanners in the country. The hospital could only afford a head scanner, but it still looked ominous and it kept emitting strange noises. We were allowed to look at the images of a few patients brains, and we learned that: symmetrical brain=good, and asymmetrical brain= not so good. We learned about what causes strokes and how rampant hypertension is in Haiti. Dr. Colas then led us to the laboratory, where they could identify anything from cancer to h-pylori. We thought of Dr. Lilly when we heard about the endoscopy suite and the GI trainings that have begun to take place here.
We left St. Luc’s and drove to Zanmi Beni, a literal paradise in the midst of Port-au-Prince. Zanmi Beni (ZB), a joint project between Operation Blessing, International and Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, was originally created to house 35 disabled children who were trapped in a room in the General Hospital when the earthquake hit. They were originally housed in a one-room building, but ZB has since bloomed into a massive establishment for disabled children. It had a guesthouse, chapel, library, living quarters, physical therapy rooms, playgrounds, pool for therapy and play, and fish hatchery. The chapel was finished only three weeks before we arrived. Almost all the buildings had AC as well. We toured the living quarters, and then entered the kitchen, which was industrial sized because it had to feed over 150 people a day. The bakery had massive ovens, and a mixer that you could probably sit in. We were treated to some of the most delicious cornbread in the world!
We then visited the tilapia fish farm and were lead on a tour by Cecilia Flatley, OBI’s in-country deputy director, and Alex, the fish farm manager.The fish farm was incredibly complicated. All the fish were separated into different pools by age, because the bigger fish will cannibalize the smaller ones or eat all their food. The pools had to be constantly monitored, and the oxygen, algae levels, and temperature have to be exactly right. We were told that to harvest the fish eggs they had to take the female fish out of the water, open their mouths and shake them so the eggs fall out into a special tank that hatches the fish. The whole process was very interesting. The fish farms actually export 500 pounds of fish per week, 300 hundred of which goes to Zanmi Beni to provide a protein-rich diet for the children. The operation plans to boost its exportation levels, because it has a surplus of fish. They are also working with the government to restock several of Haiti’s lakes, including Lake Azeui that we visited yesterday. This initiative could have huge implications for boosting Haitians’ access to protein and a more versatile diet.
We got to try the tilapia for lunch at a new restaurant at Zanmi Beni! Fresh fish, beans and rice, slaw, plantains, and an ice-cold seven-up. Oh so delightful.
We then headed to a baseball field that Operation Blessing is making to help support a new local little league. It is still a work in progress, but it looked good already. The field was grated so that there were no stones. Our objective for the afternoon became painting the entrance gate to the field. We painstakingly painted a welcome message and the names of all four teams – Tigers, TNT, Lions, and Tikrabs, plus the entrance logos. After four hours of work we returned home, a job well done.
Back at the OBI guest house, we enjoyed taco night and watched an intense documentary, called Sun City Picture House, which gave us some perspective on how important hope, laugher, and entertainment is in a post-disaster setting.
Graham Barbour: Touring the fish farms, and eating delicious cornbread at Zanmi Beni.
Nathalie Danso: Painting the gate to the baseball field while accidentally painting ourselves.
Ryan Fulmer: Learning about how fish farms work and seeing where my lunch started.
Justine Kaskel: Watching a girl with special needs smile when I put my sunglasses on her.
Helen Shaves: Taking shifts painting the entrance gate to a baseball field.
Well written! You guys have certainly been busy. Looking forward to reading more and hearing all about this incredible experience.