May 2012 Clinic Report by Larry Kaplan, MD
Our return to We Advance in Wharf Jeremy for our second weekend clinic was even more gratifying. The word got out to the Haitian community that our group of medical volunteers was capable and willing to see more complicated medical conditions, and patients seemed to present with many more severe illnesses. In all, we saw 880 patients during this clinic.
Personally, having previously served with medical relief organizations in India, Cambodia and Honduras, I saw my first case of early-stage elephantiasis, a debilitating disease whose progression can be halted with a few dollars worth of medicine. A number of our volunteers had similar experiences and, as more and more tropical diseases are brought to our shores by foreign tourists and refugees, this knowledge may prove invaluable to our doctors and nurses practicing in the United States.
The unmet need for prenatal care was obvious from the dozens and dozens of women who lined up for hours to see our two gynecologists, Drs. Leigh Hoppe and Shelly Chvotzkin. Almost all these women have no access to care, which explains why Cite Soleil has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.
Consider the following personal observations from Melanie LaCugna, EMT, LPN, first- time volunteer with Haiti Clinic:
When I was 9 yrs. old, our school principal assigned each class to write an essay on what we were grateful for. The winner was to be announced the following week, at a school assembly. The winning essay would be honored with a special gift. I worked day and night choosing my words carefully. Coming from a family of little financial means, I was grateful for clean clothes, warm food, and my family among other things. Assembly day and the winner is … Melanie Thies. My principal presented me with the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein with a beautiful handwritten inscription from her. So the seed was planted. It was at that moment that I realized that if my words can be this powerful, what can I do as a single person to make a difference? Fast forward. Haiti Clinic May 11-13, 2012. My mission was to care for impoverished Haitian citizens to the best of my ability, to show compassion, dignity, and humility. That, with the fact that I was in the company of an amazing group of volunteers, medical, and non-medical alike, made for an incredibly wonderful experience. What I didn’t expect is how that experience would come to change my entire being. This is where I am at a loss for words……if you are reading this, and somewhere in your life, someone was so gracious to plant that seed for you. This is your opportunity. The Haitian community desperately needs our services. And I can assure you, they are the most beautiful, grateful, humble people that you will ever come to know. I hope you have been inspired. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions regarding my experience. Thiesml@yahoo.com. Thank you Haiti clinic.
P.S. I still have The Giving Tree.
Other volunteers included Jeneane Ryan, Kristie Preston, RN, Alicia Center, Jim Dale, RPh, Dr. Laurie Welton, Dr.Louis Saddic, and Kathryn Johnston.