Every day I live in Haiti I learn how many things that I have yet to learn. I am constantly stretched beyond my comfort zone and trying to determine how to prioritize tasks and what would be the best solution to a problem based upon the available resources and supplies.
Today, for instance, when one of our doctors exited the room where he slept, he said that he had slipped and fallen on some water that had leaked from the sink in the bathroom adjoining his room. It needed to be fixed ASAP so this didn’t happen again. Being an old farm boy with a father who trained me with just enough repair knowledge to be dangerous, I was sure I could help fix this problem. To make sure I had backup, I summoned the person who does the bulk of the maintenance for the small healthcare facility where we work, and asked what parts he might find in the area. “What about this drain trap? Can we find it nearby?” I asked. “Probably can’t find that around here in that size, but the road to the city is currently blocked with rioters so it may be a few days before we can get to the city.” “Ok,” I mumbled, “…but do we have any old sinks that we could scavenge some parts?” He quickly responded, “Let’s go check.”
So we stumbled into the dark recesses of the dusty, critter-filled storeroom of misfit supplies, where we proceeded with caution. Finding a couple of old sinks with drains still attached, he said he would work on dismantling them.
Meanwhile, while we attempted to repair the great “water leak of physician room #2”, a nurse approached and said “Dr. Mark, we need you downstairs.”
With the remnants of the water leak and the dust from the storeroom still attached to my clothes, I descended the flight of stairs and went quickly to the emergency department. One of the hospital pediatricians was doing rounds, and was in the throes of trying to find nourishment to match the caloric intake of a malnourished patient. “What do we have to provide the oral calories for this young guy?” the doctor asked. “What can we buy in the area? Do we have any other nutritional supplements that would work?” Trying to do calculations in my head while wiping the dirt off my pantlegs, I said I would check into that. After taking two to three steps away from the ER, our radiology tech asked if I could check an x-ray, as she thought the patient had a fractured mandible and if so, what could we do, since no specialist in Port au Prince was available due to the rioting.
I quickly tried to prioritize the recent events: number one should be the mandibular fracture patient, number two would be the malnourished child and number three would be the… BUT before I could finish my thought, one of our security guys said “We are almost out of oxygen, and as soon as the roads open, we need to go to Port au Prince, but what can we do about oxygen until the roads open? We have a few patients who need it but we need to try to ration. Could you go help them assess who needs it most?”
OK, so priority one seems to now be oxygen assessment, number two would be the mandibular fracture, number three would be… “Hey, Dr. Mark! I couldn’t get the old sink apart upstairs! What would you like me to do? We need to get the sink fixed before the doctor can sleep in there tonight!”
OK, so, where was I? Number one priority was the oxygen, then the mandibular fracture, then…
“Hey Dr. Mark, I think the roads are open. If we can find some diesel for the vehicle, maybe we can go to Port au Prince to get some oxygen! We will need some funds.”
OK, priority number one, give money to the driver to get diesel to get oxygen; number two, check on the patient with the mandibular fracture… or should I check on the patients to prioritize oxygen demands? Or maybe the driver could get plumbing supplies when he goes to Port au Prince… or “Mark, did you give me a receipt for the last repair of the solar battery system?” my wife asks. “We are trying to finish the month-end books.”
OK, should my wife should take priority?… but the oxygen patients, the fractured mandible, the money for the driver, and… what did I miss?
… and so the day continued. I spent some time online, researching some caloric intake numbers and how to meet the needs of the patient, and I found some potential ways to splint a mandible with what we had available. I talked to some of the other specialists at the hospital about referral situations. I called some friends to see if the roads were still open and if our guys could get through to buy some diesel and oxygen. And I tried to get a plan with our few oxygen concentrators to supply the needs of the patients who were depleted. The sink will just need to drain into a bucket for a bit.
I did fail to find the receipt that Kathy needed for her accounting. I am thankful for her grace and understanding.
Every day I live in Haiti I learn how many things I have yet to learn. I am constantly stretched beyond my comfort zone, and constantly find that God fills gaps that I constantly fail to fill. I remain dependent upon Him to help me keep “all of the balls in the air” as I learn to juggle.
Oops! I dropped one. Thanks for the grace!