Monday, November 22, 2010

The thirst


It's the first sound we heard as we walked past the wooden sign with the words 'Antre Colera' (sic) written in sloppy permanent marker, hanging outside a hospital in Saint Marc, Haiti.

They were mopping.

Cleaning up the waste left behind in the open air "rooms" in the hospital's courtyard by the cholera victims who have died already, or were transfered to another clinic.

Two steps in, the sound changes.

The brush of the mop against the muddied floors gives way to the faint sound of moaning.

The roar of agony is coming from a woman laying on a bare wooden cot.  She stares blankly at me as I enter the dimly lit room and just keeps groaning, with one hand on her stomach.  The pain from the cholera proving more than she can bare.

A few beds away, a husband holds his wife's hand as an IV drips lifesaving fluid into her.  He just stares at her- laying here, barely strong enough to open her eyes- in shock that after everything this country has been through, this disease could have been what claimed this young woman's life.
Across the room a toddler shares a bed with her mother.

The clear cords from the IV hang down into each of their arms as a family member holds a cup and encourages them to drink more.

Along with fluid, Dr. Pierre-Paul Cadet, a Haitian born doctor with offices in Haiti, West Palm Beach and Lake Worth says the antibiotic, Cipro will help fight off the disease, especially in its late stages.

He, and other volunteers with the Palm Beach County based Haitian Education Community Association (HECA) raised money to buy 5,000 prescriptions of the drug that they brought here today.

A volunteer with Medicos Sin Fronteras (Doctors Without Borders) tells Cadet that this particular hospital is not using Cipro for treatment, but she accepts the donation anyway.

The group then moves to two other hospitals and drops off duffle bags filled with the antibiotic which medical professionals say, unlike the first facility, they *will use.

They have to try something.  This hospital is so full that several patients, including a child, are kept in beds in the hallway.  The conditions are far from sterile, and people are dying,

But, the head nurse says she feels that things are actually good at her facility compared to others because *only 11 adults and 2 children have died there from cholera since the outbreak.  Far better than the mass fatalities noted at other hospitals and clinics.

It's easy to see how the number of overall recorded cholera-related deaths in this country has surpassed 1,100.  Patients the HECA volunteers speak with say they drank from the river they knew was contaminated because they were thirsty and had no other source of water.

Water donations are scarce, and bottled water is too expensive for most Haitians to afford.  A regular size bottled water costs fifty cents.  While many Haitians are out of work, those who are employed average a daily salary of about 2 dollars.   That's a quarter of their earnings for a single bottle of water!  

So, the spread of the disease continues, from the rivers, and possibly from the hospitals.

Those entering and leaving the first hospital are asked to wash their hands with water from a giant bucket.  There is no soap, no sanitizer, just a quick rinse off with 'clean' water.  Just inside the hospital gate, a man used that same bucket of water to fill up empty bottles, likely to sell.

While the earthquake cleanup seems to finally be moving on, the thirst that clouds all sense of risk is now killing so many who survived that January day.


No comments:

Post a Comment