On Friday, May 10th, a group of twelve left Atlanta to go to La Gonave, Haiti. For all but two it was the first trip down. Nine nurses who have gone back to Clayton State for further certification, two instructors and one partnership host. We arrived on the island on Saturday after an exciting trip across the water on the flyboat. We settled in over the afternoon, had a lovely dinner and spent Sunday in church, the first service at 7 AM at St. Francis and another wonderful trip up in the mountains for service at Trou Jaque.
After resting up these women took the island by storm. There is no way to say how much the people of La Gonave appreciated their professionalism, their warm and open spirit and their skills. They have truly made friends for life.
After the whole group toured the old and new hospital at the Wesleyan compound and met with the head of nursing, Marie Cattle, it was decided that the nurses would divide up, half going up to Bill Rice and the other half going to Wesleyan to attend clinics and round with the docs.
The reality of the island is hard to absorb on any trip, but on a first trip it can certainly be over-whelming. That does not even begin to speak to what it is like to spend your first trip in one of the medical facilities. On a daily basis you are faced with those you can help and those you cannot. Sometimes that means you just can’t fix their problems, sometimes it means you see them die. It is the stark reality of the lives the Haitians live every day, and is very foreign to those of us who live in developed countries with a massive medical complex that can address most anything.
Over the course of the week these nurses learned, trained others and, perhaps the most positive aspect, they taught the staff at both places to make use of things they already had on hand to work towards better diagnostic outcomes. They never lost their spirit or compassion. Even after the day was over they were willing to sit and brainstorm about what was needed to make things better. Simple things. Practical suggestions. The kind of things we need to address first if we are to build a sustainable system in Haiti.
Having been with many medical teams I can tell you I have never seen a team so welcomed by the people of La Gonave. There was a sense of pride at having professionals from the US, people who looked like them, in the trenches and doing the work together. These nurses accomplished things that would be difficult for many others.
Thank you Clayton State women! You made a huge contribution and we hope to have you there again. You made a lasting impression on the people of La Gonave.