Today was another wet day in the North of Haiti. After three solid days of heavy rains the sky did not appear to be letting up. The road to Titoit from BML is 20 minutes of bouncing about the back of the pick-up truck watching the kids come running out to the road yelling “blancs, blancs, blancs” and waving with their big smiles. Today was another wet day in the North of Haiti. After three solid days of heavy rains the sky did not appear to be letting up. The road to Titoit from BML is 20 minutes of bouncing about the back of the pick-up truck watching the kids come running out to the road yelling “blancs, blancs, blancs” and waving with their big smiles.
Dr Brézil welcomed our team into his clinic attached to the town church. Today would be the first prenatal clinic in our mission. After a slow start we had a solid system up and running with a well-manned nursing station coordinating series of tests including haemoglobin, rapid HIV testing, blood glucose monitoring and vital signs.
As the women lined up on the benches holding their forms and with expectant swollen bellies there was a sense of joy in the clinic.
Unlike those of the previous three days, these women mostly looked healthy and happy. I was lucky to spend the morning with Dr Brézil watching and learning as he talked to the women about their intentions to birth at home, how many miscarriages, births and pregnancies their histories held and the support and family they have to help out.
As I put my hands on these women’s abdomens to assess their unborn child, their slender frames allowed me to feel with absolute clarity the head of the baby and its position.
One woman who was 8 months pregnant and under 40kg in weight was so slender that as I palpated for the baby I could feel every detail of the little foot that kicked out at me.
With only one functioning fetal doptone between three doctors it was up to our stethoscope and watch to count the baby’s heartbeat. But, when we did the chance to use the doptone it brought so much joy to my heart to see the smile on the mother-to-be’s face as she heard her baby’s heart – a joy that is not limited to any world, first or third.
But such a joy is always encouraging in the face of the difficulty that some of these women face to bring a fetus to term, provide a safe delivery – usually in the home – and have that child survive the shocking statistic of 20% mortality under 5 years.
Among the women we saw many complaints of nausea, dizziness, lower back pain and acid reflux; common among all women at some point pregnancy the treatment was often as much as careful comfort and encouragement of continuing a safe and happy pregnancy.For others there were urinary infections, parasites and gastric ulcers (attributable to the estimated 90% Helicobacter pylori infection among Haitians).
Following the clinic we took the opportunity to enjoy the break in rainfall and spent a fabulous hour walking back to Bod mé Limbe accompanied by our trusty HVH dog. The children continue to yell “blanc” and walk along with us, taking the opportunity to practice the English words they learned at school that morning and teaching us some Kréyol along the way.
Lilly Shelton, Medical Student