You know the Greek myth of Sisyphus, punished by the gods to push a giant boulder up a hill, only to have it fall back on top of him, again and again?
That is the story of our medical care in Haiti.
When we first began the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage, our “doctoring” consisted of vitamins, antiseptic, bandages and Tylenol, all of which we brought down with us.
We could clean a wound if a child fell on the chunky concrete. We could bandage it up. If a teenager had a fever or a headache, we had the Tylenol. And every day we gave the entire population vitamins.
Beyond that, we were pretty helpless. If one of our kids developed a more serious medical issue, we took them to a hospital. Care there was hit or miss. Depended on the doctor. Depended on the problem. Often, we’d have to move the child to a second or third hospital before finding a qualified person or the right medicine.
“This can’t go on,” I said. “We have to be better prepared.”
So we hired a nurse, a Haitian woman with some experience. And we increased the medicines we brought down with us. Fungal creams, ointments, cold medications, dental care items.
Pushing the boulder up the hill.
When the climb gets steeper
As the years passed and our population grew larger, we hired a second nurse, to be there when the first one could not. We also cleared a small alcove in the orphanage office and put it in a rack of shelves. We stocked them with the various pills, gels, syrups and bandages we’d accumulated.
We established a connection with a Haitian doctor, who worked out of a Port-au-Prince hospital. We arranged for her to come assess our kids every three months, and if a problem arose in between, we paid her to be on call for us.
Pushing the boulder higher.
Then the gangs took over. The streets became dangerous. Making a house call, in certain areas, meant taking your life in your hands.
The hospitals we’d come to rely on were soon without staff, or without medicine. When one of our kids suffered a seizure, we were told we’d have to go find the medication somewhere, then bring it to the hospital for them to administer it.
Another time, after discovering a new child we’d taken in had tuberculosis, we were told to come get him out of the hospital just days after brining him there, because the place was closing down due to the violence in the streets.
Our on-call doctor can’t get out of her neighborhood. Medications are scarce. All the progress we felt we’d made suddenly feels like no progress at all.
The boulder comes falling back on us.
More hands can push farther
Haiti is a series of adjustments. If this is the new state of affairs outside, then we need a new state of affairs inside.
We are hoping to build our own medical clinic, on our grounds, staffed by a doctor and two nurses and stocked with all the medication we can legitimately acquire and administer.
But even identifying those issues is near impossible now, with access to hospitals so limited and doctors so rarely available.
We want our kids’ first stop to be within our gates. We already have kids with ongoing issues that we could address. Knox and Ziggy must deal with cerebral challenges that require regular therapies. We could do that in a clinic. Not long ago, Manes dislocated his kneecap playing soccer, and needed surgery and long rehab. He’s had to do it in the boys’ bedroom. We could do that in a clinic.
And then there is Bradley.
He came to us last summer, at three years of age. He weighed 10 pounds. That is not a typo. We don’t know how he was alive. His mother had nothing to feed him. She told us she’d already lost two other children in their infancy.
So we took Bradley in, and began a guided feeding program to pull him back from the brink. He is a joyous, curious child, but after being starved for so long, he has serious challenges. With a space to deal with them — right now he is in a small bedroom — we can take care of him. Somebody must.
So we are pushing the boulder back up the hill, but it’s a different hill now. It’s our hill. If you are able and inclined to help us, we are hoping this month to raise $65,000 to build out, stock and furnish the clinic and pay the salary for an on-site doctor for the first year, after which we will find a way to fund it ourselves.
One man pushing a boulder is likely hopeless. But many hands and a strong will might just get it over the top. Then at least it doesn’t come crashing back down on our children.
A Year of Thanks & Giving Projects
#2: Safety Car
#3: A Nursery
#4: A Garden
#5: A Clinic