The last time I wrote a blog, an unconscionable number of months ago, we had recently arrived here to Bocas del Toro and I ended the blog excited by what might be possible over the coming months…now those coming months have passed, and it is time to catch everyone up and take stock of what we have accomplished here in.
6 months ago feels like a million years ago…with more long-term volunteers, we’ve been able
to really expand some parts of our project, including self-surveillance. I looked at what we had done—how many mobile clinics, how many volunteers, how many projects, how many patients…it is overwhelming to try and describe. I should either write bullet points, or a 3-volume novel to describe everything since my last update.
Over most of our time here, for example, for every 3 days we were here, we ran one day of mobile clinic work—even counting rained-out days (and it rains 150 inches a year here) and days we were involved in any other kind of activity, whether it was working on boat projects, escorting patients to the mainland to get treatment, holding office hours in our consultorio, working in the asilo, eating, sleeping, or doing anything else. We’ve seen over 3,000 patients in more than 17 communities that we visit on a roughly 2-month rotation across the entire province of Bocas (an area of over 4,500 square kilometers), in addition to all our other activities.
No matter what other projects we get involved in, the core of Floating Doctors is our mobility—even the permanent clinics we are now working to establish are to serve as bases from which to continually run mobile clinics by panga, as we have done everywhere we go. I’m incredibly proud of all my volunteers and my crew for maintaining that level of dedication to work one day of mobile clinic for every 3 days we were here.
We’ve seen a lot of different communities, and noticed that there are enormous clusterings of health issues in different small communities that at a glance may seem similar. Why does one community have an incredibly high rate of obesity and diabetes, while the neighboring community has no obesity or diabetes but has lots of parasites? We have gathered detailed demographic and health data on over 550 patients so far, community assessments on a dozen different communities, and are beginning focused projects based on issues we have prioritized based on the data so far. Results of our first survey project coming in the new year…
We’ve started doing overnight and multi-day mobile clinics—getting two or more clinic days for the price of one day’s travel, since our accommodations have almost always been in the homes of local members of the community, or expats who notify the community that we are coming, house and feed our team, and often allow us to use their facilities to hold our clinic and arrange our transport to work in communities near their homes. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the expat and local community here…I have never worked anywhere—in the developing or the developed world—where the community at every level will actually deliver on its promises of support like here. From the Mayor sending trucks to help us cart garbage out of the nursing home, and letting us use his old consulting room to open for patient consults two days a week to the local marina workers who are giving their Sunday to help drive 36 10-foot posts into stinking mud to build a wheel-chair walkway, this is a wonderful community, with many eccentric people (after all, we are here too) and many people with good hearts who have shown us enormous kindness and support for our work here. Thank you to everyone—this is what makes Floating Doctors possible. A thousand hands holding us afloat…
We’ve also joined forces with the Peace Corps volunteers scattered throughout the province;
Peace corps Volunteers have thus far been 100% reliable—individual peace corps volunteers live (very often alone) in a community and work on a project. We got in contact with one, on the mainland, and ran a mobile clinic at his village…it is so awesome to arrive with everyone notified, a place to work, directions, someone to help interpret and to give us the inside scoop on patients we are meeting for the first time, someone to pre-arrange accommodation in the community, and best of all, the Peace Corps volunteers can and do follow up with patients that we have identified as needing more advanced care. This has been our experience with the Peace Corps every time we have worked with them, and we look forward to our upcoming multiday clinics to some new communities we are visiting through Peace Corps, including a Ngobe community way up in the mountains that I have heard a Peace Corps volunteer visited but that he thinks has NEVER been visited by a medical team. Looking forward to that later this week…
June 7, 2010
Time for a quick status check, and to update everyone about our plans for the next phase of our mission in Central America. So far, in seven weeks in Haiti we have:
• Treated over 1200 patients and over 250 dental patients in the DesGranges clinic with our current skeleton crew.
• We have had three more volunteers (a medical student, osteopathic physician, and EMT) and my dad join us in working here in Haiti.
• We have finished one schoolhouse, roof and all, and are nearly done putting the roof on the second building.
• We have worked in the DesGranges clinic for more than 30 days, and put in more than 25 days’ labor on the school.
• Hand-unloaded and transported in UN trucks: 20,000 pounds of material.
• We have treated over 300 people in our own mobile clinics in the underserved communities near our anchorage.
• We have provided health and dental education to patients.
• We have moved the clinic from tents outside back into the inspected and cleared building, reorganized the pharmacy and pharmacy stockroom, set up an infirmary and triage room, and restocked the minor ops room.
• We have distributed several hundreds of pounds of clothes.
• We have conducted our activities here for one tank of diesel and a total of less than $250 a week for all food, gas for the skiff, laundry soap, transport, etc. for a crew ranging in size between 7 and 11 people onboard. That’s just over the cost of three night’s stay in the hotel here for one person (no food, transport, etc), where many other aid workers have no choice but to stay.
• We have made many friends in the community—we play pick-up basketball at 5:00AM some days, our Haitian friends visit us and often stay on board, we chat with the town baker, Madame Fievre, about methods of making Haitian bread, people bring us small gifts by way of thank you (a few mangos, some plaintains or coconuts), we go swimming, eat, and work with many folks here who ask us for nothing (some do, but many do not) but have no work and would rather work with us than sit around doing nothing.