Column by Samantha Oester

This morning we were joined by a group of volunteer eye doctors, known as the VOSH group, and a group from Haiti Marycare, led by Mary Lou Larkin, a pediatric nurse practitioner from Connecticut. We packed more medical supplies, along with eye exam equipment and boxes of glasses, and headed back to St. Anthony’s. Tomorrow, we would be heading to another clinic, so the goal was to help as many people today as possible in Prolonge’.

Optometrist Paul Halpern, a Pennsylvania resident, examines the eyes of a Haitian woman at St. Anthony's Clinic.

Optometrist Paul Halpern, a Pennsylvania resident, examines the eyes of a Haitian woman at St. Anthony's Clinic.

The rain had been steady last night, so our walk was longer, wetter and muddier than the day before, and we now carried more supplies. As we approached the clinic, faces from the day before surrounded us, expectant. The VOSH group set up their equipment in the building next door and immediately began examining patients for everything from eye injuries to those that simply needed glasses. Some men and women had lived their whole lives until today, unable to see, terribly nearsighted, and were elated to now be able to see the world. “He wants to thank you,” an interpreter from Haiti working with us, Emmanuel, told me, standing next to teary-eyed man wearing new glasses. I had helped the man with his vision test. “He can see now. He can work now. He can make more money for his family. They will eat well tomorrow.”

Chris Wurst, a volunteer from Pennsyvlania, hands glasses to a teenager from Prolonge at St. Anthony's Clinic.

Chris Wurst, a volunteer from Pennsyvlania, hands glasses to a teenager from Prolonge at St. Anthony's Clinic.

In the clinic, the crowd was slightly less chaotic than the day before, now used to our presence. We hired men from Cap Haitien who spoke English and needed work to serve as crowd control, explaining what was happening inside. Patients from all over Haiti were seen for injuries and illness, some close to not making through the day. A baby girl, who had waited hours with her mother to be seen, was just such a patient. After being seen by Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Schmidt, it was apparent her life was in jeopardy. The Haiti Hospital appeal, which runs an ambulance, was called, and Nurse Paige Chamlis ran the baby out of the clinic and to a local man with a motorcycle to take the infant across the muddy and flooded road to meet it.
Registered Nurse Paige Chamlis, of Virginia, attempts to rehydrate a baby girl at St. Anthony's Clinic.

Registered Nurse Paige Chamlis, of Virginia, attempts to rehydrate a baby girl at St. Anthony's Clinic.

“A lot of times, patients who would be sent to the hospital in the U.S. we have to send on their way from the clinic, helping them the best we can,” explained Louise Ligas, a certified medical assistant. “So, if this baby had to be rushed somewhere, it was most definitely serious.” After the clinic day, the group attended a meeting of the Cap Haitien Health Network. Started by Florida-resident Dr. Ted Kaplan and wife Elizabeth, a nurse originally from Port-au-Prince, the Cap Haitien Health Network aims to make the most of medical and other groups in the area by connecting them, as well as doing their own Haiti aid. About 60 people were in attendance from groups like Clean the World, Meds and Food for Kids and Milot Hospital, as well as Food for the Poor, Haiti Hospital Appeal and VOSH. Of concern was maintaining the aid for Haitians not affected by the earthquake while also helping those that were affected. Seriously injured earthquake refugees were still pouring into the area from Port-au-Prince, adding the needy that were already here. “We need to keep everyone in mind,” Kaplan said. “There are so many more that need help, and need help now. We need to keep coming together to be the most effective.”

Kristen Rumcik, a registered nurse from Virginia, gives reconstituted hydration salts to a little boy at St. Anthony's Clinic.

Kristen Rumcik, a registered nurse from Virginia, gives reconstituted hydration salts to a little boy at St. Anthony's Clinic.

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