Louise Hayes gives her thoughts on another medical Mission trip of November 2013:
My name is Louise Hayes. I have been a parishioner at St. Mike’s since my husband and I were married in 1982. The past few years, I would hear about the medical mission at the homily. Each year, I thought to myself, I should help out- but every year I had some excuse why not to. But this year, I committed myself to helping out.
As the time approached, I was getting a bit apprehensive- not really knowing what to expect. Many thoughts were going through my head. I tried not to think of bad things and think about good things.
There were 8 or us total that traveled from St. Mike’s parish: Dr. McMahon, Dr. Abbamont, Debbie Schu (NP), nurses Cynthia and Michele, and assistants Rachel and Flo. We met up with the translators, Father Raymond, and Dr. Alix in Port-au-Prince.
The drive from Matthew 25 in Port au Prince to Chauffard takes about 3-4 hours. It’s only 15 miles from PAP, but most of the travel is on mountainous terrain. My husband thought he was the 4×4 expert – I think the ride we took would have topped his rides. I remember Flo saying, “It feels like we are driving on top of rocks. ” We all laughed as that was exactly what we were doing. Flo was pretty reluctant to look out the window and I was busy being bounced around in the back row. The view (when we could see it) was spectacular, something you would see in a tourist advertisement. Every once in a while, you’d see a distant house, children running along the trail, women carrying large baskets on their heads, men working in the fields weeding the crops. Some houses had laundry lined upon the tin roofs drying after being washed in basins from water that was carried up from the river. The children were all dressed in their school uniforms- bright yellow and blue. They had the biggest smiles and brightest eyes. They were so excited to see us coming.
We arrived in Chauffard just before dusk. We had just enough time to set up the clinic. As there were no lights, we had to use flashlights to finish the job! Father Raymond had set up the church rectory for us to stay. They had extra rooms with cots so we were pretty comfortable- except for the fact there was no running water. Father Raymond is a young priest with lots of energy. I think he brings enthusiasm to the people of Chauffard.
We had three days of clinic. We had four exam rooms and one pharmacy. The pharmacy was stocked with most medications that would help with their aliments. We treated over 1,100 patients. The youngest was a week or two to the oldest being 92. These patients walked miles barefoot through mud, rocks, water – whatever it took – just so they could see a doctor. There were many times during the clinic, I had to step away and compose myself, holding back the tears. I worked a little triage area taking blood pressures etc., so I got to see most patients as they entered the clinic. They had to wait hours in line after they had walked hours to get there. Most of the children appeared younger as their growth is retarded due to malnutrition. The adults were so weathered. The obvious rough life they endure wore on them. A baby a few weeks old came in with the parents, not making a peep. The baby was so sick, hardly moving any air. They needed to take the baby to the hospital, but the only “substandard” hospital was hours away in Port au Prince. We provided the family with antibiotics in hopes they could give it to the baby to fight the respiratory infection.
We did the best we could do. We supplied the patients with vitamins, painkillers, de-worming pills, even blood pressure meds. I saw such devastation. It was so hard to cope. It just hits you like a brick wall. How can we be surrounded by such beauty and have this much poverty? I am glad we split the three clinic days up as that many days in a row is hard to bear emotionally.
On Sunday, we attended mass at Immaculate Conception Church . The choir sang their hearts out. The whole church was singing. It was the most uplifting mass I’ve ever attended. At one point, every one was singing and swaying. For a village so poor in material things, they were the richest in faith and spirit. Even when it came to collection, everyone walked up and put whatever change they could into the collection basket.
It’s like Father Peter Major said last week in his homily- we need to look beyond our “gated communities”, neighborhoods and see the poor and suffering around us so we can truly be uplifted to help others and find the true meaning in Christmas.