| May 03, 2010
Today was probably the most eventful day of our three-month stay in Haiti. The team and a group of very excited translators took a UN helicopter to the mountain village of Mon Foumi. This is the village I wrote about a couple of weeks ago that we tried to get to by way of a mountain road that was so horrible we turned back before reaching it.
While we waited in the field (marked with rocks in an H pattern) a little boy and his sister came to play with us. Lisa Bird noticed a huge infection on his ankle which we later learned was the end result of surgery he had to repair a leg badly broken in the earthquake. Unfortunately it looked like the infection had gone all the way through to the bone. Fred, Jamie Langmade and Lisa cleaned it and Fred wrote him a referral to the hospital where hopefully he will be put on long-term antibiotics.
When the helicopter landed, painfully-bruising debris flew from the propeller wash causing all of us to dodge and run for cover. Then we grabbed the heavy med bags and jumped on board. The helicopter was so big, there was no sensation of taking off until all of a sudden the land was far below us. The interpreters (and many on our team), who had never flown in a helicopter before, were wide-eyed at the experience.
The flight took us over high mountain terrain with tiny farms dotting the countryside, decorated with terraced fields going down the hillsides. Too quickly we were circling a mountaintop and the helicopter gently settled in on a tiny cleared area at the top. We scrambled to get ourselves and our gear out and were again battered and bruised as the giant helicopter took off, sending debris everywhere.
Villagers emerged within seconds, grabbing our heavy med bags and carrying them down from the hilltop with ease as we struggled to descend the steep slope. One elderly lady even carried one on her head!
I had to sit on my backside and inch my way down until some sympathetic interpreters grabbed me under each arm and escorted me safely down to level ground (using the word level loosely).
We looked for a shady spot to hold a clinic and settled on a metal-roofed structure which we quickly learned was a cockfighting ring! (I think this is the first time ever Medical Teams International has held a health clinic in a cockfighting ring). If we’d come on Sunday instead of Monday we would have had a large crowd as that was the day for the competitions.
Fortunately, most of the people in the village were pretty healthy. We saw much less high blood pressure than in the flatland villages – maybe because people get more exercise, consume less salt or have better diets with more fresh vegetables from their gardens.
The helicopter was supposed to pick us up at 3 p.m. and we gathered below the rise, fretting nervously and saying some silent prayers as heavy rainclouds gathered overhead. We had been warned we’d have to spend the night at Mon Foumi if the helicopter could not safely land.
Fortunately, the clouds cleared and the wind stopped before we suddenly heard the wup-wup-wup sounds of the huge blades. We all cheered as the helicopter landed and jumped on board for a safe trip home.