Teaming Up For Health

My plans were set. I was traveling to la Gonâve, Haiti with a medical team from First Scots Presbyterian Church during the last week of February. I am not a medical professional, so I planned to do educational/recreational outreach at St. Croix, a school near the clinic. As sometimes happens in Haiti, plans change. When we arrived on the island, we learned that schools were closed for “Carnivale.” Another team member and I volunteered to paint the school cafeteria instead. Many students and teachers joined us. We were even treated to a musical kazoo concert.

As we were painting one day, a young girl and her grandmother came down a rocky trail to speak with us. They asked if we were the U.S. doctors and if we could help Kesha, the granddaughter, with an eye problem. Kesha was wearing sunglasses at the time so the severity of her condition wasn’t apparent. I quickly explained through our interpreter that I was not a doctor but my wife, Natalie, was the doctor leading the mission team visiting Bill Rice Clinic. Kesha, her grandmother and I immediately set off down the hill to see the doctors.

At the clinic, we were greeted by Dr. Lapointe, the Haitian medical director and doctor at Bill Rice. Dr. Lapointe asked Kesha to remove her glasses and quickly realized that she would require a specialist on the mainland of Haiti. The young girl was scared, confused, and tearful. I assured Kesha and her grandmother that we would do everything we could to get the help that she needed. As the mission team enjoyed their final dinner on la Gonâve, they told Father Ricot, the local parish priest, about Kesha and our wish to help her. Plans were made to work together.

Back in Charleston SC, Dr. Natalie posted about Kesha’s situation on her “physician-mommy” Facebook group. She received a lot of feedback and even some recommendations for specialists in Port-Au-Prince. We learned that Kesha was at risk of potentially devastating eye infections. Dr. Lapointe quickly scheduled an appointment for Kesha in Port-Au-Prince at the Vision for Life Foundation. The doctors there determined that her eye had become seriously infected and she needed surgery ASAP. 

Less than one month later, a brave young girl and her grandmother traveled with Father Ricot to Port-au-Prince for emergency eye surgery. Kesha has since recovered and returned home to la Gonâve.

In Haiti there is a popular proverb, Ansamn ansamn, nou pi fo! Together, together we are stronger. Kesha’s story shows how Haitians and Americans working in partnership can tackle and solve serious healthcare issues. Together, we changed a young girl’s life and gave her hope for a healthy, productive future.

Josh Gregory, Charleston, South Carolina

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