Haiti 2010

Dr Toni Bark; MD and Helen Gracie, CEO of Scenar Health, have volunteered on a medical mission in Haiti during April 2010.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three Weeks Later

It's been three weeks since returning and Haiti is on my mind everyday.

I follow the biosurveiilance news feed for Haiti and noticed the suspected case of diptheria, I sent out some emails to medical folks back in Port Au Prince to find that there was no anti-toxin to be found.

It is a sad ending, as the child died while being hospitalized due to lack of staff around when he had breathing difficulties and needed to be intubated.

I am now, on the quest for donated anti-toxin and possibly some DT vaccines that I can carry on the flight when I return in June.

The good news, is that when I emailed Boston University about the results I had in Haiti using scenar on patients with shock and depression as well as injuries, I was invited to come visit the neurobiology lab with the device.

I will be training the head of the Disaster Management and Emergency Services program along with staff in the neurobiology lab, on how to use scenar, and they will be studying its' effect on the brain via EEG, MRI and possibly PET scans.

This is very exciting. My hope is that SCENAR can be used in the field with al kinds of injuries and diseases that the medics would otherwise not be equipped for.

Who knows if SCENAR could help in the case of diptheria where there is no anti-Toxin to use. Perhaps it could stimulate the immune system or the tissues in the throat enough to hold up a fight against the toxin.

Stay tuned for another blog on the physiological effects of SCENAR on the brain and body.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Video from Toni

Toni has asked me to post this video of the work of Amurt and Amurtel: a grassroots Haitian initiative helping survivors overcome trauma.

Elizabeth (Helen's sister)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Long Can Heaven Last ?

My 13 year old son, Ayal recently had his bar-mitzvah.

Part of this ceremony and event is doing charitable work, and a part is speaking about the Torah and Haf Torah portions that the child chants from the Torah.

My son told a story that went like this:

There once was a pious man who died. As he faced entering heaven, he asked G-D if he could first see hell so he could compare it to heaven.

G-D complied.

The man entered hell with an angel, he saw a beautiful and grand dining table with hundreds of people sitting around it, on top of which was glorious food of all kinds and luscious wines.

The man was amazed and commented to the angel that this looked like his idea of heaven.

The angel instructed the man to look closely at the people.

As the man looked closely at the people, he noticed that everyone was missing their arms, and in their places were long forks and spoons.

He also noticed that no one could feed themselves, as the forks and spoons did not bend and everyone was wasting away from starvation.

The man told the angel he had seen enough and was ready to go into heaven.

As the man was brought into heaven, he saw hundreds of people sitting around a beautiful and grand dining table with glorious foods and luscious wines on top of it.

As he looked closely, he noticed they too also were missing their arms and had forks and spoons in their places.

But here, everyone was feeding the person sitting across or next to them, no one was starving and everyone looked happy.

At the moment, Haiti is this heaven.

From the Haitians working without pay, to the construction workers, nurses, doctors educators and consultants who fly in from their clean homes in the first world, to volunteer their time, Haiti is heaven.

How long can heaven last?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How SCENAR Was Seeded in Haiti

The word got out, and soon people were showing up at our compound, we were treating the monks, were were treating family members of the workers, we were treating the other volunteers for their injuries old and new with the usual amazing success.

We realized, we had to leave a device with someone who was staying long term at the AMURT compound and who'd be up in the hills where the people are sick but rarely get a visiting doctor.

We trained Sarita, a lovely pixie of a woman who overseas all the children"s programming and will be in Haiti for at least another year. We trained Jane, another truly lovely woman who's land and home up in the mountains in Kenscoff, was opened
to us for two days of clinic (Jane has locals showing up daily for medical help).

We held a small lecture for those interested in using the device to treat patients in the future. One of the attendees was a middle aged Haitian gentleman who was a traditional haitian doctor taught by his father and grandfather. He seemed the most astute and had the right questions.

We've seeded Haiti with the knowledge and some devices, now we need to develop an on going program and possibly Haiti will be ahead of some of the more developed nations with this wonderful and elegant technology.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Typical Day in Haiti on our Medical Mission

Each morning at 5 am, I would hear the dada's (male monks) begin to chant in their kirtan (chanting/meditation session).

I would get up and come down from the roof to make myself my one real luxury for the day; a cup of Okumidori sencha tea from leaves that I brought from my stash at home.

Once the dada's finished at 6 am, I would often head into the meditation room with my yoga block and mat and do yoga, if the room was occupied, I would head back up to the roof and do standing poses. I could see the locals getting up out of their tents in front of their homes. I would hear the vendors who would start yelling out their goods by 6 am.

At 7 am, our cook Shambu would set out the home made yoghurt, bread and granola, as well as set out the oatmeal he just prepared, and the chadique he just sliced (a type of grapefruit).

All the volunteers and the Haitian teachers who lived with us in tents would pile in the dining room to eat breakfast and to see if the internet of electricity was working. We often had one or two computers that would connect and we'd take turns skyping and checking emails. (the amount of kbytes used was controlled by the NGO, as the internet would shut off if they went over their limit).

By 8 am, our interpreters would arrive to eat breakfast and to help us pack our truck with our pharmacy and water. We often aimed to leave by 8:30, but often there were obstacles like; a broken horn, low fuel, someone needing a ride in another direction etc. So, most often, we didn't hit the road until 9:30.

We'd all pile in the vehicle, taking up all the seats, and we'd head over to the didi's (female monks), to pick up our nurse and her assistant, or another medical volunteer. Now, there were often 10 or 11 of us in a vehicle that seats 8.

It's a good thing that none of us were overweight as we were often sitting on each other and on the area between the two front seats.

The road was often unpaved and full of rubble as well as markets and tents. We'd part a sea of people that were just living their life; walking to work, buying produce, chatting with friends.

By 10:30, we'd reach our destination, and set up our clinic for the day; the area for seeing patients (often just chairs facing each other), the pharmacy (often a table placed on concrete bricks) and a tarp if there wasn't already one waiting.

People had typically already been given numbers, or they were in line, first come, first serve and then given numbers.

If there was only one physician (me), we'd only hand out 50 to 70 numbers, if we had a medical resident or another physician as we did in the first part of my stay, we'd hand out 120 numbers or so.

We always saw more than the numbers, as many adults took a number and brought 1,2, or 3 children with them.

The common complaints were pain syndromes from either crush injuries during the quake, or presumably from the emotional shock, vaginal infections that were often mistaken for STD's (sexually transmitted diseases) but were more often candidiasis,
scabies and coughs. I saw the usual asthma, migraine, diarrhea and gastritis patient.

But, occasionally, I'd see something very unusual like a patient with hundreds of growths on their skin and scoliosis (neurofibromatosis), or the 50 year old woman who had been pregnant for the past 10 years (embryolith or stone baby), a woman with a possible lepromatous growth on her foot, a young girl with bumps under her chin which turned out to be tuberculosis.

Again, the most common complaint was pain. Often, "full body pain" or FBP as we all coined it.
These patients would get treated by me and Helen, once she arrived, with the SCENAR reflex biofeedback device.

We helped everyone who complained of pain. They would leave our clinic with a smile on their face and without medications.

By 3:30 or 4 pm, we would pack up our pharmacy and clinic and all pile back in the car for our ride back home.

We would all be hungry, tired and hot, but this did not stop us from chatting and laughing the whole way.

On my first few days, we would listen to the music that was in the cd player; versions of "baba nam, kivalam", AMURT's chanted mantra. every cd had the same few words repeated over and over and over.

After the first three days, I could not listen to the same words and I told the driver he could put the radio on. He picked a station with rap. I rapped "baba nam kivalam" to the music, which put the whole group into hysterics.

We would arrive back at the compound hungry and needing bucket showers.

There were left overs saved from lunch for us; curried lentils or stewed beans, brown or basmati rice or polenta, freshly stewed vegetables with spices. I occasionally made seaweed salad to go with this as our raw greens. The food tasted excellent and Shambu's cooking was always appreciated.

The evenings consisted of bucket showers, popcorn and the few nights we had access to electricity, I hooked up my IPOD to
an amplifier and either taught a Haitian dance class to the surprise of the Haitians, or we all would salsa dance.

Most of us were in our tents by 9 pm.

I thoroughly enjoyed lying in my tent, listening to the pouring rain hitting my rain tarp and reading the steamy novel my sister Marla shoved in to my hand before I left. My other sister, Caryn also handed me a book for the trip, but I didn't really get to that one until the last few days. I was often too tired to read by the time I lied down and would just take in the surrounding noises for a while, once I had enough, I'd stuff ear plugs in my ears and roll over.

My Meeting With Alison Thompson

You heard Helen's voice on this subject, now to mine:

My team arrived at the JPHRO ER tent after we drove through a narrow lane from the bottom of the Pentionville country club tent city.

This new city houses, or tents, 40 thousand people. driving through this felt terrible that we were disrupting their daily ives with our noisy 4wheel drive.

We had no choice, we had brought medical supplies and were not allowed to come in from above, as the army is stationed there.

Allison immediately came out to shake my hand and greet the visiting doctor (me) and her team

She had her naturally white blond hair in Heidi braids and had an unbelievable smile on her face.

It's as though the heat and the suffering just doesn't touch her. She is the only person I have ever met who can stay unscathed
through such harsh conditions.

It's not that I didn't keep my humor and wit while working in less than optimal conditions, it's that I looked remarkably
disheveled most of the time while Alison looked as though she had just been graced by a film stylist; her hair in perfect braids, her clothes stylish, pressed and clean. Also, Alison had been in Haiti since the disaster and planned on staying the year, I knew I was going back soon to my family and dark chocolate.

Meeting Alison Thompson

There have been many amazing experiences this week, however a highlight for me was meeting a fellow Australian in a makeshift ER on the top of a hill in Port Au Prince. The extraordinary thing is that we were born 24 hours apart in the same city - yet we meet 43 years later in Haiti.

Alison is a dedicated, experienced and selfless person and I plan to now follow her volunteer experience for the rest of 2010. She is working for the Jenkins Penn organization and is directing the medical program. Working with a rotating shift of volunteers every 14 days, running a 24/7 facility, living on rice and beans and sleeping in a tent, life is not easy. Yet she spends most of her day smiling and somehow manages to work through all the logistics of running the medical program and making sure the best of care is available to the camp residents who rely on the medical services she co-ordinates.

I am in awe.


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