PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (March 16, 2011) – Editor’s note: This report is part of a week-long series of articles written by Stan Friedman, news editor for Covenant News Service, who spent five days accompanying a five-member medical team from the United States providing care to Haiti residents during a two-week volunteer mission.
By Stan Friedman
Modern Day Good Samaritans
Alex Areces and two other staff members of Medical Teams International were driving around the country assessing the spread of cholera in villages during the early days of the outbreak when, out of the corner of his eye, Areces spotted a body on the side of the road.
“It was a young man about 15 years old who had been sick with cholera for nearly two days – enough time to be dead if not treated,” says Areces, the assistant director for MTI in Haiti. The teenager had collapsed on his way to a nearby village clinic.
“He was cramping up from the drain of electrolytes that had sapped all his energy,” Areces says. None of the bystanders nearby would touch him for fear of contracting the disease.
Areces and the other staff members – medical coordinator Fabienne Goutier and Les McAuley, a field logistics worker – attended to his needs. “We gave him some oral rehydration and massaged his painfully cramped fingers,” Areces says. After the team gave money to the driver of a tap-tap vehicle (a Haitian cab) and convinced him he would not contract the disease, the man drove the teenager to the village where he was admitted to the clinic.
The boy returned home alive the following day.
The Power of Brotherly Love
Woodhall, a 12-year-old cholera survivor, had lost two of his brothers to the disease just days before he brought his remaining brother to the clinic for treatment.
Chivinski was 11 years old and dying. The brothers’ mother had died years earlier and their father was at home burying their siblings, so responsibility for getting Chivinski to the clinic had been laid on Woodhall.
Chivinski lay still on his bed with his eyes half open as Jo Hauser, a physician from Ottawa, Canada, began his exam. Hauser shook the boy, but there was no response. Woodhall watched from the end of the bed.
Through a translator, Hauser asked Woodhall how long he had been looking after his brother. “Two days,” the boy replied.
Then Woodhall asked a question: “Is my brother dead?”
Hauser put his stethoscope to Chivinski’s chest and found a faint heartbeat. It was too fast, but the boy was alive. Hauser motioned for Woodhall to listen through the stethoscope. Woodhall looked puzzled, but after listening, he began to laugh.
Nurses immediately infused more intravenous fluids into Chivinski. Meanwhile, his brother ad-libbed a song – “This is not the day you’re going to leave me.” Woodhall sang it all through the night.
Chivinski was so dehydrated and weak that medical personnel doubted he would survive. But when morning came, he still was alive. He continued to improve and within days, he had recovered. The boys walked home together.
Before they left, the brothers stopped at a soccer field where helicopters landed when delivering supplies and transporting medical teams. The boys wanted to wave one last time to the nurses from the ward who were returning to the United States.
To read earlier stories, click on the links below: