Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Haiti!

Howdy friends! I'm back! 

I arrived safely back to the good ol' U.S. of A. last Sunday, and have since been searching for the words and stories that would best illustrate all that I learned, experienced, and cleaned up, during my 10 days living among the poorest of the poor, in Thiotte, Haiti. 

Because I'm still searching for many of the aforementioned words, I think it better that I just start things off by telling one of my favorite stories from this great journey.   

If you'll remember in my last post before leaving for Haiti, I wrote that I had many goals for this adventure, but that two of my main goals were: #1) I hoped to help deliver a baby, and #2) I wanted to play lots of soccer with Haitian children.  

I know what you're thinking, "Gosh Chris, those were some lofty goals.  No way you accomplished both of those, especially that baby delivery goal..."

I am proud to introduce my Haitian story #1:  

"The Miracle of Birth Seems a Little More Miraculous When You're In the Front Row"  

On Thursday, February 5th, as the Wisconsin Haiti Medical Mission team took a lunch break from saving Haiti (a bit of an exaggeration, but it really was quite incredible the number of patients our team saw, treated, and repaired during the five days we had a free clinic open to the people of Thiotte, Haiti.  Actually, I hesitate to say it was a clinic for "the people of Thiotte, Haiti", because people walked or rode mules from all over their mountainous country in the hope of seeing an American doctor.  Humbling, to say the least).  As we were enjoying yet another plate of rice and beans, Bobbi, a nurse on our team, said, "Hey Chris, an expectant mother came in this morning at 4 centimeters, and will probably be giving birth at around 9:00pm tonight if you want to come help out.  (It should be noted that at the time, I had no idea what "4 centimeters" meant, and you only mistakingly say "4 inches" once before a half dozen women give you dirty looks and correct you with just a hint of disgust.) 

Of course, I was all over this invitation, and counted down the hours with much anticipation and glee until the ETB (estimated time of birth).  

At a quarter to 9, I excused myself from a rousing game of "Spoons" (which by the way, really shows the true character of some people...), changed back into my scrubs and excitedly headed over to the clinic (which would have been the perfect time to say, "well friends, I'm out like a fetus", but I didn't think about it until just now - snap!).  

As I entered the clinic, groans from the expectant mother could be heard echoing down the hall, which turned out to be the first of about 89 times that night I thanked God for making me a man.  The woman was only at 8 cm when I arrived, meaning she still had two whole centimeters before she could finally push the big guy out.   

As we waited patiently, Dr. Lois, and Nurse Bobbi, two fellow Americans, filled me in on what I should be expecting, as well as how I could contribute in delivering this baby.  I tried to soak up every word so I wouldn't be too overwhelmed, which is exactly how I felt back in high school when my freshman biology class watched a birth on TV.  When the time finally came to join the mother in the delivery room, a strange calm came over me.  I had my game face on, and I had the feeling I was going to contribute to this birth in ways you don't see in the United States of America.  

Another important fact to note is that in the town of Thiotte, electricity is only available by generators, which are extremely rare, to say the least.  The clinic and the church in the village share a generator, which they only run from 6:00pm until 10:00pm.  One would think, as I did, that if a baby is on his way out, they would allow the electricity to run late.  Well, one would be wrong, as I was.  At 10:00 sharp, the electricity cut off, which left us scrambling to find flashlights.  Thankfully, I had worn my head lamp over to the clinic that night, so naturally I became the Birthing Light Technician (BLT for short.  And no, I haven't added this job, nor its description, to my resume, but it has crossed my mind).  

From that point forward, my main job was to keep the beam of light from my head lamp aimed squarely at the birthing mother's mystery zone.  Oh, and don't you worry; as I did my best to keep the birthing area properly lit, I multi-tasked like a champ as I cheered and encouraged the mom and baby.  We found that yelling "Push!" was getting lost in translation, so we asked the interpreter how to say "push" in Haitian Creole.  

Ironically, the word for "push" in Haitian Creole sounds like the vulgar and offensive five-letter English word that is a slang term for a woman's private area and is also sometime associated with cats.  

It took the three of us Americans some time to warm up to yelling this word, but once we did, we began to yell it with gusto!  We yelled and yelled, late into the night, until finally, at 1:35am on Friday, February 6, 2009, a beautiful baby boy finally got a good enough running start to free himself from the barriers and restrictions found only in the uterus of a first time mother. 

The rest of the night was a blur.  I helped Bobbi clean the goo off the baby, and then helped Lois clean the goo off the floor.  The birth of a child sure is a sloppy endeavor, yet one that I found quite natural and beautiful.

I finally went to bed at 2:45, but before I fell asleep, the realization of what I had just experienced came rushing over me.  I had just witnessed the miracle of birth.  

I guess this is why people tell you to aim high when you're setting goals.  


Thanks for reading, friends!  We'll see ya soon!

Peace be da journey, 
Christopher  


1 comment:

Mo-T said...

BLT huh? I know someone else with those initials...