Thursday morning after the quake I was totally energized and ready to work at the Hospital, and so was my mom.
When we arrived Emile, the hospital administrator, brought us out to the center of the lawn in front of the hospital where there was a small amount of supplies that we were to organize and distribute in an ‘orderly’ manner.
From that point we were touch and go. My mom and I started to sync up and focus. Sanitation one pile, bandages another, pain medication yet another, and so it went.
Once all was categorized I started roaming the grounds. Just as with the night before, the Haitian patients approached me from right and left asking me to examine their family members. I went and examined, and offered the singular solution of retrieving painkillers from the supply pile or pharmacy. Patients walked right up to the few roaming doctors to request various things, at which point the medical personnel decided whether or not to write them a prescription, a.k.a scribble on scratch paper, and then the piece of paper was to be delivered to Emile, who may or may not have had what they wanted. Even a system as crude as this one seemed a vast improvement over the first night after the quake.
There was a hodge podge of Spanish, French, English and Creole inside my head. It was a true testament to the power of non-verbal communication. As I wound my way through the patients, a large UN truck arrived hauling water and many UN “peace-keepers” from Sri Lanka.
For whatever reason, the UN peacekeepers had their automatic weapons poised with barrel raised when they arrived. It was truly insulting. Here these poor, and decidedly peaceful people could barely move, let alone give reason for the use of guns, and these soldiers for peace were seemingly preparing for a riot.
My mother’s CEO modus operandi took over. She approached the guards and firmly explained that there was no need to have the guns raised, if they needed the weapons, at least they could lower them. They were not in any danger.
To their credit, they heeded my mother’s suggestion and relaxed their weapons. We found out they were also trying to assist Dr. Archer set up an outdoor operating area, where he could begin the endless necessary amputations. Everyone had to take into account which patients would need to be moved and where the prep area would be. Such a task called on a true manager.
So while Mom started directing UN guards without flinching, I stuck to the task of visiting with each of the injured and their families. My mom had the managerial skills, but I had the strong stomach. Together we were able to contribute to very different, but still necessary needs. The families needed to feel taken care of, and then they really needed to be taken care of.
My mom and I will always look back on that morning and remember how well we worked together. What had only been a feeling before became a strong conviction; I knew there was much more to be found in Haiti than death and destruction.