| Apr 19, 2010
Part of Fred and Dr. Stephen’s job is to evaluate villages for future clinics. The World Health Organization has assigned Medical Teams International to zones 9 and 11 outside of the village of Leogane, so we’re constantly on the quest for villages that need medical assistance and aren’t getting help in those areas.
This weekend we thought we’d found the ideal village. Fordoyen, an isolated mountain village about 15 kilometers from Leogane. Fordoyen has never had medical services. Sunday we found out why.
After meeting a village leader in Leogane, we started out in Medical Teams International's Toyota Prado Land Cruiser to go to Fordoyen on Sunday. We passed crowded gasoline stations with lines for fuel going around the block. Fuel is in short supply right now in Haiti because of a real or manufactured fuel crisis. We’ve been hard-pressed to find enough diesel to run our generators or enough gas and diesel to fuel our cars.
The first part of the trip was delightful. First we wove through steep mountain terrain on a smoothed paved road. On either side were terraced fields with pineapple, sugar cane or banana plantations surrounding us. Relatively flat areas (rare to find) were planted with annual crops such as green beans or peas. In the distance were magnificent mountain vistas with cloud-capped peaks.
Few people were evident. It was early in the morning and most people were in church. Houses were scattered widely around the landscape. Most wooden ones were intact. The ones built from limestone had crumbled in the earthquake.
Then the aftereffects of the earthquake and excessive land-clearing for crops became evident as the eroded land poured down on the road. The road became a barely-passable one-lane road with steep cliff drop-offs on the outside. We crept along carefully, thankful for UN machinery which was clearing part of the mess.
Suddenly the paved road ended. The village leader had told us the village of Fordoyen lay 6-7 kilometers past the end of the pavement. But he hadn’t told us the condition of the road. It was a heavily-rutted, eroded, steep road with frequent rock blockages and sheer cliffs. We crept along slowly. My stomach churned with fear (and living in Montana in the mountains, I don’t consider myself a wimp).
After 15 minutes of torturous driving, we hit an ever worse road, if such a thing is possible. Even in low-range 4-wheel drive the Prada barely crept up the steep road. The village leader assured us Fordoyen was only 15 minutes away, but after a few more minutes, we made a unanimous vote to turn back. Even if we had been able to reach the village, there was NO way we could safely send a team of volunteers there to offer medical services on a regular basis. What if we had some flat tires, or it rained and the road was blocked by a mudslide?
Fred and Stephen decided the only thing to do was seen if we could get helicopter rides to offer a clinic in Fordoyen.
So we sought out a place in the road wide enough to turn around, and to the village leader’s dismay, headed back down the mountain. The trip down was equally scary. We stopped to take pictures at an earthquake-damaged home and almost got blown off the mountain by strong winds. I was clinging to Fred’s arm as we walked around.
Finally, we reached the paved and then the main road and relative safety (the quality of driving in Haiti makes even main roads hazardous). When we got home, we told the team (who’d been packing drugs for this week’s clinics at the warehouse) that they’d missed some beautiful scenery, but we WEREN’T going to show it to them.
I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing the kitchen and labeling drawers and cabinets so subsequent teams could find everything. At one time a roach crawled on my hand from a boxful of sardines I was unpacking. I screamed with feminine zeal, but none of our masculine team came to my rescue. Instead, Geoff grabbed a broom and he and Aric played a game of “roach hockey” across the kitchen floor with the dead body of the roach. This included tormenting me by aiming the thing at my feet. I retreated to let the children play.
Several of us spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the numbered patient sheets we give out at the beginning of clinics for; crowd control, triage information such as symptoms, temperatures and blood pressure, diagnoses and prescriptions.
Since the cook was off Sunday, that night we were treated to a “firehouse” dinner of barbequed chicken, salad and rice and beans cooked mostly by paramedic Ron Morgan of Tigard, Or., and midwife RN Mary Carpenter of Eugene, Or.
After an evening of playing cards and a scrabble-like game called Banana Peel, we all went to sleep early to get ready for this week’s clinics.