Monday, February 1, 2010

Joseline is the face of Haitian optimism.

By Tyler Marshall

On Jan. 12th, the day of the earthquake, Joseline lost loved ones and a comfortable home. Her prestigious job as Director of Nutrition in Haiti’s Ministry of Health quite literally dropped out from under her when the ministry itself collapsed. In short, her world turned upside down.

A respected physician who also teaches as the National University Hospital, Joseline didn’t dwell on her loss. She didn’t hesitate a day.

The morning after the quake, she opened an emergency clinic under a grove of trees adjacent to the wreckage of the Church of St. Pierre in the St. Louis area of Port-au-Prince, just a few miles from downtown and began treating the injured. Several of her medical students quickly joined her. A tent was erected, canvas sheets were put up to add more shade and mattresses were hauled in to create a 13-bed in-patient section to the clinic.

Now International Medical Corps is supporting the clinic with a volunteer physician, medications and food for those who reside in the makeshift neighborhood around the clinic.

Talking animatedly with a big smile, Joseline’s body language alone conveys the message that (1) the only response to the earthquake is to get on with rebuilding and (2) there’s no time to waste.

“We don’t have homes, we don’t have offices and we sleep right here at night and I’m practicing general medicine again,” she said with a big smile. “I’m available for anyone who comes here and we’ll stay for as long as we’re needed.”

On a recent day, the clinic treated about 60 patients—roughly half of them with earthquake-related wounds that required cleaning and new dressings. Physicians report a growing number of skin rashes, stomach problems and diarrhea—complaints that reflect the stress of maintaining good hygiene while living on the street or in makeshift tent camps.

International Medical Corps’ support began a week earlier, with the provision of a volunteer physician and badly needed medicines. Volunteer physician My-Charllins, who is Haitian-American, currently serves at the clinic alongside Haitian physicians. The other day, International Medical Corps delivered 2.5 metric tons of rice, beans, maize and vegetable oil to the residents of the little community—an action that clearly lifted Joseline’s spirits.

After treating the injured and sick for much of the day, at night her commute is short: she sleeps under the stars at her clinic.

“It’s satisfying to be tending to patients,” she said.

No comments: