The Nine Days I Spent in Haiti Changed My Life!
Beth Langlais, RN traveled with Christian Medical and Dental Association to Haiti March 17 – 25, 2012. Here is her story:
“The nine days I spent in Haiti completely changed my life. I went with a team of general physicians, dentists, a pediatrician, chiropractor, physical therapist, pharmacist, and opthalmologist. In total, there were 34 volunteers. We also partnered with a local Haitian physician and dentist. We set up clinics in a school and church in St. Marc. I worked primarily in triage, routing patients to the proper medical personnel for treatment. I also learned a few Creole phrases by the end of the week. Over a period of five days, we treated over 1,500 patients. We primarily treated women, children, and the elderly. I saw a lot of skin infections, wound infections, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, malnutrition in children, gastro-intestinal issues, and blindness. We also treated several patients with active TB.
I most enjoyed working in triage. It was extremely stressful and exhausting, but it was where I had the most contact with the Haitian people. I learned the Haitian people are very kind and that they desperately need access to adequate medical services. I work in labor and delivery in Seattle and in Haiti, I had to use nursing skills that I had not performed in seven years (since I graduated nursing school). The trip really opened my eyes to the grim reality of healthcare services in the developing world. The conditions Haitians live in are appalling. Most people had no access to running water and proper sanitation. Garbage and rubble overflow in the streets. Many of the patients we treated were living in tents or crudely manufactured shanty homes and walked miles to the clinic. Most people were very nice and appreciative of the care we provided, even though they often had to wait in line for several hours to be treated and we weren’t always able to provide the services they wanted.
The hardest part was when we had to turn people away that needed treatment. We were forced to close early two days because the crowd outside they clinic rioted and tried to break down the door. We also saw patients who needed care that was beyond our capabilities, such as severe gangrene and advanced cancer. It was incredibly difficult to deal with not being able to treat them effectively and to provide the advanced care they needed. It broke my heart. I worked with one three-year old boy who had a severe eye infection. His eyes were extremely swollen and full of pus. We were unable to lay him down flat to examine him fully, because the pressure in his head was too great. The Haitian people had pushed him to the front of the line so that he could be treated first. We were able to give his mother antibiotic eye drops, but he most likely needed surgery to have both eyes removed. We provided his mother with money and transportation to Port-au-Prince so that he could be treated properly. I will never forget his face or the sound of his cries.
This medical mission truly impacted my life. I loved the time I spent in Haiti and working with the Haitian people. I can’t wait to go back and do more work there. The trip confirmed my desire to work in international nursing. I plan to participate in several trips a year from this point on in my life. I would never have been able to experience this trip if I had not received the scholarship from One Nurse At a Time. I am so grateful and thankful for the opportunity I had to travel to Haiti.”
Beth Langlais, RN
Bethany Langlais is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Seattle Pacific University. She has been working in labor and delivery for seven years. This June, Beth will complete her Master of Nursing degree, with an emphasis on global health, from the University of Washington, Bothell. She plans to work in the field of global health and pursue her desire to help improve the health of women and children worldwide. Bethany has volunteered on medical trips to New York and Costa Rica while in nursing school, but Haiti was her first international trip as an RN. She is active locally and has volunteered in her community working with local youth as a mentor and healthy living coach. Bethany’s passions include the outdoors, running, travel, and caring for pregnant women.