Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb. 5

Friday started out a bit slow as we sat in traffic fro a bit. As I mentioned before, traffic has been horrendous. This time there was a reason though, as there were about 200 Christians all dressed in white marching in the street singing hymns. It was quite remarkable to see. I don't know that I would be able to have that kind of devotion after what I've seen here. More power to them.

We then stopped in on two mobile clinics the second of which was set up today in the same tent city we visited yesterday. We followed Joia, the chief medical director, as she saw patients. It was about 9:30 and the clinic had been up for an hour. Everyone stands in line to be seen for medicine for everything and they are all given a number. Joia sat down at a table and I noticed that the first woman she saw was number 215. By the end of the day they saw 1200 patients, as their policy is not to stop until everyone has been seen.

One of the great things about shooting something like this is you get to really check out the details of people. Every patient who sat down was immediately extended a hand and then after a greeting, Joia would continue to hold their hand in both of hers as she talked to them for a minute before starting an exam. It was all in Creole but it seemed to take the same tone every time, along the lines of ‘How are you?’ ‘How are you feeling today?’ ‘How long have you been here?’ - not being asked by a doctor, but by a fellow human being. As I've said before it's what makes PIH amazing: dignity.

We left the clinic around noon to meet up with one of the nurses from Cange who had come back to PAP. She lost her sister and her niece in a church that collapsed and is now supporting her brother in law and his 9 remaining children. We went with her to the church which see saw for the first time and was just gut wrenching to see. The top two floors had pancaked and the only gap you could see was in place because of a school chair that had somehow held up. It doesn't seem like anyone could have even known it was coming. Later she told us that she had talked with her brother in law and they had found an org that may adopt the four youngest children. I can't fathom having to make that type of decision. The strength that I have seen here is like none other.

We stopped into a supermarket to grab some drinks and to my surprise the shelves were stocked. Sort of odd to see.

There were military guys in their teens with ak47s buying junk food, but other than that it could have been anywhere else. Now this is only one store but it occurred to me that people are starving with the shelves stocked because they are too poor to buy anything from a store. I've said it before but the earthquake is only the latest in a long line of calamities to befall this country.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in traffic, literally, and got back to tent city in time to shoot an interview with one of the docs.
The surgeons from Cange have come to tent city as they are heading back to Philly in the morning. There is no room left anywhere so they are sleeping on the steps of the palace. I ask them what their final tally was and they told me that in 9 days, they’d operated on 77 people. That's with only two surgical teams. They said that back in the real world they would do about 50 a month and that's in a big month.

It's wild to talk to them because they are exhausted and dirty and worn down but every single one of them says they would and will do this again in some way and can't wait to come back. Amazing.

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