Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Right Place at the Right Time

Three siblings came to see me: a 12-year-old girl, who was in charge, an 11-year boy, and a four-year-old boy. They had walked and ridden the bus to come to the clinic so that I could see a small infection in the smallest boy’s ear.

As I interviewed them, I learned that their mother had been hit in the back by a cement block five weeks ago and had not walked since. She had not yet seen a health care provider. They did not have the money for a car and could not move her. I wanted to arrange a home visit by one of our clinic staff.

It was impossible, I was told.

They lived too far away, where no one had access to care, and for a list of reasons, admittedly valid, I could not see her. I knew that I could not go alone and help her - it was too far, too unsafe – but it was still very difficult to hear.

Instead, I offered the children the very best health education that I could and encouraged them to find help for their mother, even though I am sure that they had been doing so non-stop since the earthquake. I pictured their mother, strong, proud, beautiful, and resilient, and my helplessness broke my heart.

Here in Haiti, I am reminded again and again of how fortunate my life has been.

Later that day, a 10-year-old girl came in with her father. My colleague attended to the father, who was feeling ill and later tested positive for malaria. Meanwhile, I saw the child, who was brought in because she was not eating or sleeping well. She told me that she did not want to go to sleep because she was afraid she would die. As her story unfolded, I learned that her uncle, who lived with them, died during the earthquake.

She had witnessed his death.

I was happy that she could at least verbalize her experience and her fears and, in doing so, probably made one small step towards recovery. She promised that she would eat and speak with someone so she could continue healing.

When her father was done with his treatment, they went off to the side and sat together, both with a visible sadness but love for one another. Then she buried her head in his chest and started to cry. She saw me watching and came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Sometimes it is about being in the right place at the right time.

Nancy Dinsmore, RN, MSN, PNP
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital

Follow Interntional Medical Corps

No comments: