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Reflections from Gandou

The trip was intense. Intensely joyful, intensely hard, intensely challenging, intensely rewarding.

We went to the same village that I went to last year but the people who live there have done so much work that I hardly recognized it. It was a joy to say I didn’t know my way around this tiny village that I love. The school that was half built before the earthquake was now rebuilt and functioning and they have power. Last year every time I wanted to do a EKG in the clinic, all construction had to stop because we only had 1 generator. Now they have solar power that runs the clinic and school. They even have intermittent internet access. The day I received a email from Zorange I sat at my desk and cried. It is difficult to describe how remote this village is.

This year we brought a mobile clinic to Gandou. This village is cut off in the rainy season when the river is too treacherous to cross. The ride in is an hour from Zorange up steep mountain trails. Some of the hardest 4 wheeling I have ever seen and you know how I like to ride my ATV! We saw many people with incredibly high blood pressure. (its hereditary there, not due to lifestyle obesity and smoking is almost non existent in Haiti) One lady we saw was 50 yrs old and had already had a stroke at home, no medical care, and was having mini strokes currently. How her husband will continue to care for her is a mystery and miracle.

We have a midwife Kim traveling with us. She saw many pregnant women who have not received prenatal care. 3 of them were in a critical condition, preeclampsia. Kim was able to treat them there and likely saved the lives of the moms and babies. Thank goodness that we will have a clinic there in the near future. We saw many, many people that day. We were not able to see all of them.

Back at the clinic in Zorange I saw a woman that had the worst case of shingles I had EVER seen. These are incredibly painful. She came wrapped in a towel because she could not stand to put a shirt on. In the US she would have been hospitalized. I gave her what I had: Tylenol. She never complained. By the coconut grape vine (amazing Haitian hard work/connections) medicine would be brought to her the following day from Port au Prince 5 hours away. She tested positive for HIV. Yes, we have limited lab capabilities. I referred her to the nearest HIV clinic but the only transportation is walk or motorcycle ride. It is unlikely that she will be able to get there and the clinic that I referred her to needs a lot of improvement. She will likely die. Those are the sad stories.

The joyful stories have to do with the Haitian people that are running this mission. What a joy to be with people who work hard and care about their work. With so little, they do so much. As before they welcomed us into their homes and their lives. For this I am incredibly grateful. Every night there was a prayer service and they would sing in strong beautiful voices in the mountains these voice travel straight up! We had so much fun playing games and sharing music.

– Marlene Rickert