Practicing medicine in the tropics entails more than its fair share of the unpredictable, a factor that only increases during Atlantic hurricane season. Last month, as Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey’s relentless rains, Haiti pitched in to help.
The plane’s engine gently comes to life, subtle and quiet as a dishwasher, and soon we accelerate through takeoff, forced back into our seats by the mounting speed. I turn to the only other passengers — a mother and her son, who one month ago suffered extensive burns over his body, burns that are healing, but not well. “Eske nou anfom?” — Are you OK? — I ask.
The term “victim” aptly describes those in the thralls of addiction to pharmaceutical-grade opioids. To place the blame on the chemically dependent is to miss the larger picture.
While cervical cancer has dropped out of the top 10 cancer killers in most developed countries — thanks to a simple screening test, the Pap smear — it tops the list in Haiti, where Ange is my patient. Yet Ange’s story is no different from the stories of many women in the United States, particularly among the poor and uninsured.
A medical doctor and a Syrian immigrant, my colleague Yousef is driven by fear that a knock on the door could mean the end of his American dream.
Another disaster has befallen Haiti in the form of Hurricane Matthew. From outside portrayals, the death and destruction is expected to further cripple the country, our poorest neighbor in the hemisphere. But Haiti is not the sum of a series of disasters, both natural and man-made.
The Haitian doctors’ strike ended last week and it is unclear if there are any winners. The conditions in which the striking doctors work are appalling and the low pay was galling, but without the doctors, hospitals shut their doors and the poor were left to take care of their own illnesses and injuries for nearly five months.
Over the last 30 years, Haiti has become the ultimate expression of limited government, a test tube for libertarian ideals such as the privatization of basic services.
In these confusing times, we can shut down and isolate ourselves, or we can explore and connect with the rest of humanity. I choose the latter. Here’s where to find the hidden gems in nine of my favorite cities when you’re tired of the beaten track.
Frustrated with the consistent dysfunction of the Haitian government — and, often, of the institutions I work with — I’ve decided to leave an organization I’ve worked for on and off for 12 years and launch a new organization called Equal Health International.
Haiti has no president. Former President Michel Martelly finished his five-year term on February 7 and stepped down without an elected successor.
The Ghetto Biennale is a biannual street art festival in Port-au-Prince that attracts artists, craftspeople and musicians from all over the world. Wending our way down the tiny, irregular alleys, an overwhelming sensation of welcome and warmth emanates from the shacks and workshops.
The line of work I have chosen is never easy, and the inconveniences can needle their way deep into your being. But sometimes my mind clears for a second and I allow myself to perceive the wonderful minutiae of life.
“I want to quit drinking, but it calms me down. Sometimes I drink to numb the pain in my shoulder — old football injury,” my patient John said to me in the hospital last week. “Same with the smoking. It keeps me calm and I don’t think I’ll ever quit smoking. It’s just a part of who I am.”
This week is just like any other week for me, staccato and split between two drastically different places, rarely with enough time to adjust or reflect.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month both in the United States and in Haiti. The month and its ubiquitous pink ribbons are supposed to remind us of the importance of screening for breast cancer and what we can do to stop the leading cancer killer of women globally.
Most of the long-term homeless I encounter are men, many with mental health problems and substance abuse issues. Helen defied my expectations.
I thought about Daniel a lot over the next six months, wondering how he died and where. Most possibilities were terrible.
“Can I ask you some questions about your health?” With that opener, a community health worker walks into a humble house to explain more fully the reason for the visit. What happens after that is nothing short of miraculous.
Juniors are rare in Italian culture. The first-born male is customarily named after the paternal grandfather, and the second-born male is named after the maternal grandfather. My oldest brother hogged the name of both of our grandfathers, Robert and Edward. Robert, at age 3, successfully lobbied my parents to name their second son Steven, after The Six Million Dollar Man character, Steve Austin. Three years later, my father, Vincent, wanted to give me his name, and my mother acquiesced.
Alexandra was our first referral from an outside doctor, a hopeful sign of acceptance from the local medical community. She had run out of money. Paying out of pocket, she’d already asked her friends and family to pitch in.
We had asked the women to come in, spending $1,000 on radio ads about free breast cancer screening, unsure what response we’d receive. The response was overwhelming.
Given the tumultuous history between the two countries, how would Haiti welcome the first official visit by a President of France?
I am no Houdini. A warm terror jolts through all of my limbs. Why did I agree to this?
We’ve been doing interviews on radio and television for nearly two years, repeating that early assessment and early treatment saves lives, but still most of our patients still appear in the late stages of disease.
Measles is highly contagious and willful ignorance is reigniting its spread.
Without disseminating treatment throughout the country, many more people will die unnecessarily of treatable cancers as they wait for spaces to open up in the few treatment programs that are available.
Saturday marked the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed 220,000 people. But Haiti is much more than the sum of the natural disasters and political unrest that has plagued the nation for the last few decades.
The only thing on my schedule today was to go to the bank to send an international wire transfer. I never made it there. Before I could, the day would turn bizarre and then surreal in the mountains high above Port-au-Prince.
When I first arrived in rural Honduras in 2002, communication with the outside world was severely limited, and I relished the solitude. Ten years later, I’m suffocated by the ubiquity of electronic communication.