Wednesday, July 13, 2016

One Precious Starfish

A dear friend of mine arrives today.  She’ll join us for the remainder of the trip.  I plan to meet her at the airport if I can, ignoring my own advice from last night and the previous post.  Guess what?  I never make it to the airport.
Worth every moment of a very long day in the heat!
Instead, today is about one precious little girl – a good friend of mine.  Amazingly enough, O is the first child I’ve worked with who has tested positive for TB in her visa medical exam.  That part wasn’t a surprise.  We knew she had TB, and she’s been treated.  But we are concerned and alarmed to learn that she’s been referred for further testing and no visa can be issued at present.  So today is for O, assessing her health and trying to figure out what we need to do for her to fly home with her new family.
To my surprise, first thing in the morning I’m asked to interview two English teachers, a job for which I am absolutely unqualified.  We have a small group of adoptive families who are interested in trying to hire a teacher or two for BRESMA orphanage.  The need is urgent.  Not just for educational reasons; the kids need challenge and stimulation during their long, slow wait to leave.
As usually happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, or more than one American trying to help organize things in Haiti, things are confused from the beginning.  I wait for hours for the arrival of a guide, who carefully escorts us from the guest house to the exact same clinic to which the staff to O last time.  We could have been here hours ago.  After we arrive, I explain our situation to a doctor, who promptly informs us that the pediatric TB specialist is at another clinic today.  I have to call Rony and have him come right back to get us.
We drive for a very long time through intense traffic to the other clinic, O cheerfully pointing out interesting sights and discreetly mooching for attractive sale items in the street.  We buy her water and I feed her a peanut butter granola bar, which is a huge hit.  She’s a neat little girl, and leaves her pretty dress just as clean as it was when we got in the car.
At the larger Gheskio clinic we hit the next road block.  I don’t have any legal authority over this kid.  The doctor, who speaks crisp, perfect English, discusses her situation with me and expresses the same concern we have that she seems to have lingering TB.  Possibly even drug-resistant TB.  I promise to provide her with everything she needs tomorrow, and she goes ahead and bends the rules for us a little bit.  We do an x-ray, which shows that O basically has one functional lung.  Holy smokes.  A radiograph is not diagnostic for TB, but O now has the doctor’s full attention.  It is now 4:45 and we can’t do any more testing, but she does some calling around for us and sets up more testing, private testing, so we can have access to all of the results.
We head home at last.  I am wilted and drooping in the relentless, sweltering heat.  O and I had granola bars for lunch (and she had more than I did), but I’m almost too hot and tired to eat.  Nevertheless, a day very well spent.  We’ve found someone who cares about the health of this one child.  I have a starfish tattooed on my arm to remind me of what my priorities are.  Perhaps Dr. R does too.

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