Saturday, June 8, 2013


D.I.S.H. Medical Mission: Dame-Marie, Haiti
May 23, 2013
The D.I.S.H. medical team, myself included, arrived bright eyed and pushy tailed by 4am at the Miami International Airport ready to embark on the fourteen hour journey to Dame-Marie, the hometown of our brave founder and leader, Dr. Kansky J. Delisma.  Leaving our families, friends, and jobs behind, as a detected team of doctors, pharmacist, and nurses we paid our own way to bring much needed medical care, mediation, and most of all hope to the remote town of approximately 30,000.

Upon arrival in Port-au-Prince, we were greeted with a warm musical welcome. It set an enthusiastic tone for the long and arduous 12 hour bus ride to Dame-Marie.  But a voyage to the westernmost tip of Haiti left a few of my team members and myself feeling less than jovial.  A chance encounter with a couple of New York City's finest at the Port-au-Prince Airport set our minds at ease.  It's a small world after all!
The majority of the D.I.S.H. team, including myself, are Haitian born or are of Haitian decent. The very bumpy long ride through the Haitian capital gave us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our homeland. To my dismay, this was no longer the developing country I had such high hopes for. 

By all means, I was not expecting to see the same colorful buildings and charming homes that once flanked the streets pre-earthquake. But, what my fellow teammates and I were expecting to see was progress...our billions of dollars in donations hard at work.  I lack the sufficient words to describe the heartbreak and disappointment I felt when I came to the realization that very few people were better off than they were a year ago...or even three years ago!

Maryse Jean- Louis on  LARRY KING LIVE, 2010 WWW.CNN.COM 
Amongst the tent cities and dilapidated buildings, a new normal had taken root. Three years post earthquake, children were risking life and limb to play on  unpaved and garbage lined streets, with canals filled with sewage and human waste just feet away. 
We encountered many broken spirits and sad faces along the way, but for the most part the citizens carried on with what little they had.  Children were walking pride-fully decked out in their school uniforms and adults were getting their hair coiffed in barbershops and salons no bigger than my half bath. 

Along our rocky and very scary climb to our destination, we made several stops to answers natures call.  Many of my teammates went native and relived themselves behind the nearest bush.  I wasn't so brave. I was very blessed to come upon some openhearted families who allowed me to use their makeshift bathrooms.  I was more than happy to repay their kindness with cash and Tylenol.  Needless to say, I was broke and in a lot of pain by the end of the trip.

Twelve hours after we left the Port-au-Prince airport, we reached our destination.  Tired and bruised from our treacherous bus ride, we were thrilled to be greeted by modest but very clean sleeping quarters maintained by a very friendly staff.  For your average Joe, such a journey would require several days of recovery; but as medical professionals we've learned to make due without such  a luxury as sleep. My fellow team members and I were up and ready for action by 6 a.m..  After a tradition Haitian breakfast and team meeting we piled into our trusty buses and bravely headed into the unknown.

As we pulled up to the hospital, the size of the crowd that had gathered in the hopes of getting medical attention surprised even our seasoned missionaries.  Prior to our arrival 2,000 residents had been registered to be seen; by the end of our four day mission, over 3,000 people had received medical care and/or prescriptions.  Our days were long and exhausting.

 We separated into three teams; clinic, pharmacy, and surgery.  As part of the surgical team, I assisted in eighteen surgeries.  Due to lack of supplies and a very limited operating facility, we were unable to do any major surgeries. With only a very limited amount of Lidocaine (a local anesthetic) at our disposal, we were able to repair several hernias and remove several tumors.  After working ten years in the USA as a registered nurse, I can tell you without a doubt NO red-blooded American would have ever laid still and allowed anyone to cut open their abdomen, face, or groin under local anesthesia. 
The sheer bravery and determination of these people quite frankly left me feeling like a punk and embarrassed that I had whined about having to bathe with a bucket of cold water.  I quickly learned access to clean water was a luxury not everyone was privy to. 
Dame-Marie was the adventure of a lifetime. We were all tested to our limits, especially when we found out American Airlines cancelled our flight back to Miami.  Status-post thirty hours of travel time, peeing in the bush, bathing in buckets of cold water, and servicing over 3,000 people;  the resounding collective feeling about returning to Haiti on an other medical mission is---Heck Yeah!

1 comment:

  1. Wait! Why'd they cancel y'all return flight?
    What a description. I felt like I was there. Thank you for your service <3