Treating Patients Without Tools: Haiti's Diabetes Crisis Day 4
Our final full day in Haiti is today. I am both ready to go home – can't wait to feel clean and not put on Deet-- and sad to leave a place that quickly grows on you, gets under your skin and amazes you continuously.
We went to the mountains with two board members of FHADIMAC, and from a high perch, the city of Port-au-Prince below looked like paradise. But as we descended the mountain, winding out of our way and close to the edge to avoid debris, reality came back to us.
The streets got progressively more crowded: a woman walked by with a basket filled with live chickens on her head; men were milling around and the rubble and debris appeared everywhere. We went to a grocery store - I got cheese and was in heaven, and to a Middle Eastern restaurant for hummus and baba ganoush.
We sat behind a gate in an idyllic garden setting, and we felt almost transported to another place and another time. We discussed the low literacy rate in Haiti -- about 70% of people cannot read and write according to our luncheon partners. Every opportunity Haitians get, they talk about NGOs or the ever-present international non-profits. They share both the negative and the positive. The negatives: the non-profits don't work together and not much with Haitians themselves; they take a lot of resources, distort prices and leave abruptly.
And what is there to show for their work? Well, in my eyes, it looks like close to nothing. Haitians also talk a great deal about the upcoming elections. The likely winner is not a politician. And what they ache for is an effective, proactive government that can get hold of the donated monies and use them to fix Haiti. But no matter what side they are on, all agree it will take decades to get back to the pre-earthquake Haiti -- if ever. And no matter what the conversation, it always ends up with a discussion of where they were, what they were doing, where their family and friends were and who they lost at the time of the earthquake.
As usual, the afternoon was dedicated to teaching. Today's meeting with all of the incredible doctors was a great exchange.
I sat with four eighty-year-old emeritus physicians - an endocrinologist, a cardiologist, a surgeon and an internist. They were arguing with me about articles that were just released in medical journals. They told me how they manage renal failure in diabetes. I was amazed at their clarity of thought, their commitment to their patients and students (everyone evidently with a medical degree from Haiti in the last 50 years is their student). I asked them why they don't leave, and each simply answered this is their home. This - with arms outstretched - is their family.
Francine Kaufman, M.D., is sending updates from her Blackberry during her visit to Haiti with a relief mission. Here are links to her other updates: