By Mary Lou Larkin
Everyone rose early to go to Jacquesyl. It was pouring rain and it took us a long time to check out of the hotel. But we finally were on our way with the VOSH (Volunteer Optometrics in Service to Humanity)team, Jennifer's team of nurses and 5 translators. It was still raining when we got to Jacquesyl and I was afraid people wouldn't come out, but the church was at least half full with people waiting to be seen by the opticians. We quickly rearranged the benches for people to wait their turn and teachers carried over tables from the school to set up the stations for VOSH. The teachers also brought over some of the children we had identified that needed eye care.
VOSH was a class act. All of them had been to Haiti before and seemed quite relaxed amongst the activity of assuring everyone that they would be seen, figuring out where they could work, who would translate for whom and who from the Jacquesyl community would work at registration. The noise level got pretty high at times and I for one got a little frustrated, but they were cool. Our Jacquesyl teachers were great and helped to keep order. ( I think we exhausted them) VOSH set up stations for acuity exams, glaucoma exams and various other stations which made me realize how little I know about eye exams. At the end there was every possible prescription for glasses was available and those who needed them received a pair. Everyone also received sunglasses. ( The kids thought they were very cool) One person needed a prescription they didn't have and it will be made in the US and sent to Dr.Maklin.
Meanwhile Kris along with Louise one of the nurses and a translator held a dental clinic in the back of the church. Most of what Kris did was extract teeth in the elderly and a few not so elderly and treat gingivitis with Tylenol and amoxicillan. People loved her because she so quickly put an end to their pain and misery. One man came by the center later that night to tell her how much better he felt. Louise was amazed at the procedures and the strength it takes to pull some people's teeth. It's pretty gross, but it sure makes people feel better and I saw a lot of immediate gratification.
Over in the clinic, Jim Morgan, a pediatrician from Hew Haven, CT, and Jennifer Schmidt NP, two nurses, and myself saw pediatric cases. One of the biggest things I learned on this trip was the importance of Haitian translators. Not only did they understand everything mothers and patients said, but they understood problems and nuances and cultural things that it would take an American a long time to figure out. Also because they were not from the town, people seemed more comfortable talking about some things, knowing that they wouldn't be repeated or judged. I was extremely grateful to these translators. These were well educated people who spoke at least two languages well and couldn't find work in this country of too few jobs. When we paid one of them his eyes filled with tears. He told Jennifer that he just volunteered to help because it was so much better than sitting at home doing nothing and never expected to be paid. I am happy that we were able to give him four days of work and hope that he will join us in the future.
It finally stopped raining (I know we were all praying that it wasn't raining in PaP) as we finished for the day. We were all tired and took a little break to rest before getting together for dinner. At dinner we talked about the day. The VOSH team (Dave, Linda, Paul, Anita, Mike and Jack) saw about 125 people. There was a family of 5, all with trachoma, a disease that is spread easily within a family and can cause blindness. It is spread by hand to eye contact between children with the disease or by the feet of flies who feed on the exudate from the eyes. Megan and I had seen a young woman earlier in the week who was blind. She was seen by VOSH who told me her blindness was due to lack of Vitamin A in her diet as a young child. In Jacquesyl all children are treated with Vitamin A supplements, but this young woman had only recently come to Jacquesyl. As so often happens people are sick because they are poor. Poor diets, poor living conditions, lack of soap and water, screens on windows, Kleenex... all things we take for granted.
Mary Lou Larkin