Thursday, August 19th, 2010...11:50 am

Haiti: Understanding the Needs, Bringing them Home

Leyla in Haiti

JDC Next Gen Steering Committee member Leyla Sandler just returned from Haiti, where she utilized her social work expertise volunteering alongside JDC-supported aid efforts. You can read her first blog post from Haiti here.

On Monday I returned to the JDC-supported Bel Air clinic to work. I spent most of the day working in the triage section of the clinic, compiling the patients basic info, as well as ascertaining their weight, temperature, and blood pressures (age permitting).

This was an interesting day: the clinic began charging 50 Goud (approx $1.10), for the first time since the earthquake. The Haitian government recently mandated that, by October 1, all clinics must charge for services and document this procedure. Not charging was creating financial complications for public Haitian hospitals and clinics.

Regardless of the patients having to pay, the clinic was very busy. We served about 130 patients, three of which really stood out in my mind.

Leyla’s Photos From Haiti

The first was a teenage boy that came in requesting immediate attention. He had been hit on the side of his head and face by the rear view mirror of a tap-tap (their form of public transportation). He was in grueling pain. The doctor’s deemed him to have a slight head injury, but was in good shape considering what had happened. He was given some pain medication and sent on his way.  Another case was a 24-year-old girl who was accompanied by her mother. She had come in due to an eye injury, which was a result of a physical fight with her husband regarding her desire to leave him. She was treated and expressed some willingness to speak with someone (that someone being me!) about domestic violence, forming a safety plan, etc. She informed the doctor that she didn’t wish to discuss the issue in front of her mother and said she would come back in the morning, however she never returned. Domestic violence is quite common in Haiti, especially now with the rise of gender based violence in the tent cities.

Lastly, a case that not only stood out in my mind, but a patient whom I will never forget: Jean Michelle, a 24-year-old painter. He had been painting when the earthquake hit, the roof collapsed on his head causing a head injury and his hand was seriously injured due to being caught in the rubble. He had yet to receive any medical attention and was in critical condition when he arrived at the clinic. We treated the abscess on his hand.  Following the procedure he fainted. After running a few tests, the doctors determined that he was in septic shock, due to the fact that his blood pressure and pulse were really low and his temp was very high (and climbing rapidly).  He was unresponsive, shaking uncontrollably, and sweating profusely. We prepared a makeshift IV in order to give him some fluids, along with giving him any and all antibiotics that we had in the pharmacy to treat him. We attempted to make his temperature subside, but were to no avail. He was crying and asking us to pray for him.  He was so sweet and polite, not to mention tough and resilient. After we had done all that we could do, I gave he and his brother some money for a cab and sent them on their way to the General Hospital.

On my final day in Haiti, I worked in the Bel Air clinic in the morning and had the pleasure of spending the rest of the day with Gideon, who is managing JDC’s efforts in Haiti on the ground. When I arrived at the clinic to begin working, who else was there but Jean Michelle!  It turns out that the hospital refused him care, so he was returning for a follow-up with us. The doctor worked on his hand and redressed it with gauge and bandages.  His temperature decreased but not by much. The doctor prescribed him some additional antibiotics and explained that he truly was lucky to be alive.

That afternoon I was able to see a few additional projects that JDC is funding. The first was the amputee clinic at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince. As I walked in, there was a waiting room full of individuals of all ages, most of whom were amputees due to the earthquake. The clinic was providing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and will eventually be fitting patients for prosthetic limbs in that very space as well. I watched an interview of a 20-year-old girl, who had been trapped under the rubble for one day, which resulted in the amputation of her left arm. She explained that she is now left to fend for herself and is a loner, as most of her friends were killed. She was requesting a prosthetic for both cosmetic as well as daily life skills needs.

We also visited a school set up in a tent city known as Peggyville. There were two classrooms enclosed by tents, which served the children of that particular tent city. The need for this service is so great that they have two sessions per day.

My last day in Port-au-Prince was another amazing day at the Bel Air clinic. I performed the usual triage duties, which I had become quite accustomed to! My friend Jean Michelle came back to check in again. I saw babies, elderly, and adults as usual. During clinic there was a church service being held (as I previously mentioned, the clinic is on the second floor of the church). It was truly breathtaking to hear to voices and songs of praise crying out for help for themselves, their families, and their country. I have never in my life seen children and elderly alike pray with such fervor, intensity, and enthusiasm. The Haitian people are known to be quite religious in general, but I truly believe that for the vast majority of them their faith has been of the utmost importance in getting them through these trying times.

After some time at clinic, we drove around the city, and saw the palace and cathedral. The destruction is overwhelming and the devastation of the Haitian people is heartbreaking. It is almost as if this lifestyle is normalized to them. Could you ever imagine Americans living in these conditions as well as dealing with the loss of so many loved ones becoming normal? No chance!

I must thank the JDC and Heart to Heart for an amazing and unforgettable experience. This country and its’ people need SO much assistance and probably will for the foreseeable future. I am truly going to miss the bonds that I created with the Haitian staff, the beautiful yet solemn faces of the patients in the clinics, and the many innocent, not even a few months old, babies whose futures are so uncertain at this time.

For more on JDC’s work in Haiti, click here. To donate to JDC’s efforts in Haiti, click here. Want to get involved? Email us: globalservice at jdc dot org.


  • […] took her expertise to the field, volunteering alongside JDC-supported aid efforts in Haiti. Read her account of the trials and triumphs at the Bel Air clinic in Port-au-Prince. Leyla Sandler travels to Haiti […]

  • I am writing to find out how I can volunteer several weeks of time to the Haitians relief effort. I am particularly interested in working with children although any way I can be useful is equally fine.
    Thank you.Wendy Cohen

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