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2017 Winter Medical Mission

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Day One

Hi Everyone!
     We just arrived in Fontaine! As every trip to Haiti begins, we have had a few bumps in the road (pun intended). Most of us left from Buffalo at an early 5 a.m. to embark to JFK, then on to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Some of us joined in JFK and continued on with the group. We landed in Port-au-Prince and were met with hugs from Pierre Louis before boarding the buses to make the trek to Fontaine. Before we made it to the off-road section of the trip, we experienced transmission issues with one of the vans. As we waited for another van, we got to get to know one another on the side of the road and watch wild horses.  While the delay added to the ETA, it did not dampen our spirits. In true Haiti trip fashion, we played car games that helped to pass the time, and we learned that Elliot is the geography king.
        We finally arrived at St. Gabriel's School around 9:30 p.m. and we got right to work setting up the clinic for our first patients tomorrow. Our pharmacists, Mike and Charlene, along with the pharmacy students, organized and prepared the pharmacy with the help of the medical students. We all finished in time for a late-night dinner preceded by the Haiti Blessing that is said before every meal. We finished out the evening with a logistics meeting and the promise of 6 a.m. yoga the next morning to open up the first day of clinic. More updates to follow as we continue our week and meet new people.


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Day Two

Hello everyone,

Today was our first full day in Fontaine. After a restful night of sleep following a busy travel day, there was 6 a.m. yoga and a delicious breakfast of peanut butter, omelets, and fresh papaya and pineapple (yum!). We organized our clinic and shopped among the women who walked many miles to sell their goods including hand stitched tablecloths, paintings, wood sculptures and jewelry. Clinic started with a busy morning. We saw a lot of patients with many interesting conditions. Vinny and Dan diagnosed peri-partum cardiomyopathy; Addie and Greg diagnosed a teenager's pregnancy; and we used the ultrasound we brought with us to investigate many complaints. We were able to see the baby in the pregnant patient, as well as a few benign tumors such as lipomas. Unfortunately we also saw some more serious tumors that will need further investigation. We were able to give treatment and care to almost 100 patients today and students got to perform steroid joint injections and joint aspirations. The pharmacy was bustling, and we had most of the medications that we needed. Our translators and translator students were extremely helpful. We could not have seen as many patients as we did or give them proper care without them. Many of the translators are students or graduates of St. Gabriel's School-where we are working and staying, and several of the students will be attending medical school or university in the new year.
After clinic, we walked to the local river where locals were washing their clothes and bathing. We finished our evening with a delicious dinner of rice and beans and are currently sitting on the roof after debriefing the day. We have had our fair share of critters already, including cockroaches, a lizard, and (I've just been informed) a mouse who found my secret Wegman's granola stash (RIP).

We look forward to another productive day tomorrow.

Peace and love,

Colleen  + Kimmy

Day Three

The third day of our trip was just as interesting as the first. I spent the majority of my time in the pharmacy, and here I felt the limitations of what we can do consistently throughout the day. Due to financial restraints, and pure unpredictability of disease presentations, there was no way we could have adequately prepared. The pharmacists are constantly having to assess why certain medications were prescribed and brainstorming an alternative due to lack of supply. And occasionally we simply cannot come up with anything - for diseases that could be so easily treated at home.

Despite all this, it is easy to feel good about what we are doing here. We are providing treatment to people who have no other option - whether it is something as simple as providing relief for simple pains or injecting steroids into the knee for arthritis (something I was very excited to do for the first time!).

For the rest of the week, we're hoping to continue to work on patient education - health education here is only occasionally adequate. Personally, I hope to be as dedicated as Adeline, who went the extra mile in teaching her patient exercises to increase quad strength to reduce knee pain.

Ashutosh Sharma and Greg Raczkowski

Day Four

Hey everyone!

Today we started the day by going to Mass at the church down the road from the school. We all dressed up and joined the congregation for their Sunday's mass. After church, we returned to the school and started seeing patients.  We saw more kids today than in previous days; there were many cute babies. Since there were a lot of children, Mona and Lauren blew bubbles with them outside while they were waiting to be treated. We were able to see a good number of patients before breaking for lunch. The pharmacy tends to get super busy right before lunch, so we had to make sure all of the patients got their medications before we took a break.  Today for lunch we had pizza that was very delicious and everyone enjoyed.

After lunch we continued seeing patients and diagnosing them with various conditions. Rosie was able to step away from the pharmacy and observe the med students and providers examine patients. One patient in particular came in 5 months pregnant. She had initially come in with complains of a rash, but then mentioned that she hadn't felt her baby move in over a month. We brought her to the procedure room and did a sonogram to look at the baby. Dr. Ilya was able to find the baby's heartbeat and see it move around. The patient was very relieved to hear this because this was her fourth try at having a baby after 3 unsuccessful pregnancies. It was a great experience to see her so happy and grateful that we were able to give her good news.

Once we finished clinic, we walked to the orphanage to visit and examine the kids. We brought the girls dresses made by Mona and ladies from the Newman Center at UB, along with everyday supplies, stuffed
animals, candy, and toys for them to play with. While we were there we made balloon animals, which the kids really enjoyed playing with. We're planning to go back tomorrow to provide more care to the children.

Overall, we had a very productive day and look forward to our final days in the clinic with the patients.

Peace & love,

Rosie and Lauren

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Day 5:

Greetings from Fontaine, Haiti! Bon ani (Happy New Year in Creole)! It is also Haiti's 213th Independence Day.

The day began with pumpkin soup. The story goes that when the French enslaved Haiti, they did not allow them to have soup (some versions say pumpkin). So, on their first Independence Day and every
Independence Day since, they have celebrated by making pumpkin soup and inviting all to partake together. The pumpkin soup we had was a broth loaded with vegetables and I think, some pasta. It was delicious
and the first time I had soup for breakfast.

To begin the day, a small group of us went back to the orphanage we had visited yesterday. The orphanage houses 12 residents ranging in age from around 7 to 16. It is sponsored by a Christian missionary
organization called Haiti Go Outreach out of Fesno, CA. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the compound and found a bunch of American men and women playing basketball and Legos with the kids! We measured their heights and weights and vital signs and did physical exams on the kids. Happily, they all seemed to be healthy and thriving.

At clinic, the rest of the team saw more patients, some coming from as far away as 2 hours by 'motorcycle taxi'. Patients were happy to receive medications for high blood pressure, joint injections for arthritic knees and shoulders and deworming medicine and vitamins for kids. As has been the case every day, the infants and children tug at our hearts with their large, soulful eyes. A few of our team loved on a really cute baby for quite a while, before realizing that the whole family had a bad case of scabies. Oops! There was some vigorous
washing, bathing and permithrin treatments that followed. Dr. Ilya successfully removed a dead cockroach from an elder gentleman's ear. The funny thing is that, he did not even come in for that. He casually
mentioned among other things, that his ear felt plugged.

At the end of the day - around 3:30 p.m., the team gathered together to go on a hike. Travelling to the base of Mount Pignon in the back of a pickup truck, along with pillion riders on motorcycles, everyone reached Mount Pignon - about 15 minutes away from the school where we're staying. Our guides were little kids who climbed nimbly up the mountain barefoot. We made it as far the Pignon sign (not quite the peak) and took in the view. Several folks got to ride dirt bikes there.

At night, during reflections, Pierre Louis - on the founders of the High School here, told the group his story of how this whole work got started. But that is a story for another day.

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us. We missed not being able to call you and look forward to seeing you soon!


The Fontaine, Haiti Team.

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Day Six

It's hard to believe this is our last day in Haiti but I can say on behalf of the entire team we have started this New Year off in an amazing and positive way.

Yesterday was a hectic last day of clinic. We saw about two times as many patients as any other day, but we wanted to see as many people as we could before leaving. After clinic, we packed up and took inventory of our supplies, and ended the night with a celebration. Our medical team, the translators, students, cooks, and some of the teachers from the school shared a wonderful meal of vegetables, goat, chicken, rice, plantains, cookies, and champagne. We then danced the night away to popular Haitian and American music. It was a great way to end a week with old and new friends.

This morning our team drove from Fontaine to Port au Prince in record breaking time (4 hours) and got to enjoy the better part of the day by the poolside of our beautiful hotel.  It was a well-deserved day of rest after a tiring but fantastic week. We shared some of the most rewarding moments we each had on the trip, as well as some of the challenges we faced. 

It is sad saying goodbye and heading in our many different directions after forming so many new friendships within our team and with the Haitians. We look forward to working together again both locally and internationally. We are also disappointed to hear that many of our pictures earlier this week could not be sent properly, but hopefully some will work better today!

See you all soon! 

The Fontaine Haiti Team

 On New Year's Day, members of the Medical School Mission Team and a number of St. Gabriel's students climbed Mt. Pignon to watch the sunset over Pignon.

On New Year's Day, members of the Medical School Mission Team and a number of St. Gabriel's students climbed Mt. Pignon to watch the sunset over Pignon.

Sarah Goh