pcDR 14.09 – “Dermabond, a Priest, and Eclampsia” – Day 5
By: Sae-Rom Chae, Resident Physician
Sept. 11, 2014
We woke up to another perfect sunny morning and another delicious Dominican breakfast of coffee, juice, eggs, a “mystery meat” that tasted like slim jims, and of course, juicy local pineapple and melon. Our task this morning was to wrap up what we could of donation organization and distribution from Project C.U.R.E.’s medical supply shipment. Now on day 2, the gargantuan challenge of unpacking, assessing, and categorizing the mountain of cardboard boxes finally was coming to a close – it remained only to be made useful and easily accessible, which was harder than it sounds.
Unfamiliar with what their nebulizer machines looked like, what surgical procedures they were capable of doing, and what type of tubes their laboratory used, for example, we walked through our neatly labeled and stacked towers of boxes (now more organized than most of our closets at home, we agreed) with various hospital staff members to explain our “system” of organization and take them “shopping” for materials they needed at the moment. We were surprised by concerns raised that we had never had to consider, such as the need to lock everything up when staff weren’t present, including hand sanitizer dispensers and gloves. We also did some teaching about some products with which they weren’t familiar, like Dermabond. We left the hospital, sweaty and dusty, in the hopes they would still understand our labeling system after we were gone and regularly “shop” in the storerooms before ordering their monthly supplies.
|Guaymate ER physician learning how to use Dermabond|
|Our crew ready to relax after hours of organizing medical supplies|
We were thankful to have a free afternoon and watched a very salient documentary, called The Price of Sugar. We took advantage of our bunkbeds to create an impromptu movie theater, complete with fried plantain chips as our cinema snack of choice. The film was extremely sobering and inspiring. It told the story of Father Christopher Hartley, an Anglo-Spanish priest who bravely uncovered and documented the story of Haitian workers trafficked across the border to work in the sugarcane fields of Los Llanos through a covert network run by one of the largest sugarcane companies in the country. I felt indignant, hearing how workers and families were stripped of their documents and basic rights (i.e. freedom of movement, adequate food and water) and corralled in their bateyes or housing settlements at all times by armed guards. The extent of exploitation and injustice was sickening; Without documents to claim either Haiti or the Dominican Republic as their state and housed in barracks with barbed wire strung across the rafters to prevent escape, batey workers and their families remained trapped in their poverty and geographic location. Workers regularly “disappeared” without recourse and brutal beatings were not uncommon. Their existence was described as infierno or hell by one batey worker, who later stated that he was willing to risk his life by associating with Father Hartley because he considered “death better than [his] reality.” With a leader and advocate in Father Hartley, international attention was brought to the horrors endured by batey workers and workers organized a strike to successfully improve their conditions.
As I thought about the current, comparatively “improved” state of bateyes, I was amazed by how much courage, tenacity, and international solidarity it had required. I was also reminded by how powerful unity in numbers can be and it gave me renewed conviction in a very important component of global health work: advocacy.
Our day closed with a meeting with some youth leaders in Guaymate we had all been greatly anticipating. We planned to discuss how we might continue to partner together in the coming year. During our last trip, I had been so energized by the enthusiasm and talent of the youth with whom we had worked, and I was eager to connect with them again. Dylan, our key Peace Corps Volunteer, would also be present. Though we didn’t have an immense turnout, we felt grateful for the genuine commitment and passion demonstrated by those who came. Our excitement grew when we talked about designing bound printed cloth panels to function as a reusable and effective visual during charlas or education “talks” (we stole the idea from walking in on a charla at Guaymate Hospital that used brightly colored pictures printed on durable cloth to teach about tuberculosis, created by the Ministry of Health).
|Dylan and a youth group leader discussing pregnancy in Guaymate youth|
|Our team and the Guaymate youth group leaders|
When we opened up the floor for questions (about anything!), we were startled by the intelligence underlying the first: What is the difference between preeclampsia and eclampsia? This was a question asked by a 17-year-old female student. We left the meeting with a sense of tremendous humility as we thought about how much potential these youth had and the privilege of working with them. The last question we were asked made us all exchange glances and smile before we answered. What made you guys want to become doctors? Because doctors get to share in the most precious human moments, just like these.