Michael Aleman (MEAS, 2014)
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Global Health
Location this summer: Haiti
It’s been five days since I last wrote, and I’ve learned so much in such a short time. Haiti is a place of ironies: The petrol tap-tap with the words “Toyota Diesel” painted in cursive along its side. The man without a shirt chatting away on a cell phone. The laborers at the compound contrasted against those with little else to do but observe passers-by. A new road lined with small shacks built of what material was available. The open sewage ditches that line the roadways and from which local people gather fallen mangos after it dries in the afternoon sun.
But Haiti is also a profound example of the triumph of the human spirit. The fearless tap-tap man who hangs out the back of the truck with one hand, as his other hand is holding the fare from his passengers. The seemingly limitless patience and politeness of the people at all times of the day. Their warmth towards the blan. Always responding with a smile and a wave. The members of a Baptist church dancing down the roadway with a truck hauling a large speaker providing the music, all at the hottest time of day. And who can forget the occasional “I love you!” from those who just want to show off their English skills?
On a slightly different note, I got the chance to experience first-hand the Haitian health system in Milot on Monday. I was having back pain from a hike the day before and was taken to the hospital in their ambulance – a Toyota Land Cruiser with a rolling stretcher bed in the back and nothing more. I was unloaded by a friend and was taken around for a few minutes while they found a place for me to stay. I was placed in the Haitian equivalent of an outpatient ward – a hospital bed with a mattress and sheet in a large room filled with other sparsely furnished cots. I was fortunate in that I was the only one there, though the noise coming over the walls from the Records and Admissions offices kept me from feeling any sort of privacy. The heat and humidity also progressively increased as the clock neared 1PM. I drifted in and out of sleep until a couple of volunteer nurses moved me into the ICU, which was almost the same as the outpatient ward except that it had AIR CONDITIONING (some of the volunteers here joke that the Haitians hang out at the hospital a lot because of the A/C). Needless to say, I managed to sleep a little better. Around 7PM I was taken back to the compound, feeling a lot better after a shot of Toradol was administered to me.
I should make it clear that the hospital is an incredible facility. The CRUDEM Foundation has done an incredible job doing what many would consider impossible – bringing top notch health care to the people of Milot and the surrounding areas. There is as much old equipment as there is new equipment, and a high quality of care policy which is comparable to that of the US, is ensured thanks to the Haitian medical personnel and volunteers. It is a very clean installation, and I am excited to be a part of it now as well as in the future.