Friday, March 31, 2006

Sister Sophie’s Clinic:

John has been coming to this clinic for many years. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are pediatric days, and the moms begin lining up with their children at 3 a.m. The clinic averages 50,000 patient visits a year, comparable to a good-sized U.S. emergency room. When John isn’t there, the clinic is staffed by two doctors, a few nurses, and some pharmacy techs. One of the nice features of this clinic is that one small fee covers the appointment and any necessary medicines.

Given the violence, we haven’t been here since September and it is good to see Sister Sophie again. We catch up on all the news in the neighborhood. Despite the reduction in violence, a neighborhood vagabond was shot 17 times and killed (redundant) by a rival gang the prior evening not far from the clinic.

The first child John sees has swollen, hardened lymph nodes under his arms so John orders a chest x-ray. The next few kids have mild fevers, coughs, and running noses—the Haitian crud, John calls it. He attempts to look in the children’s ears with his otiscope as they sit on their mothers’ laps. The otiscope with its pointy probe must look like an instrument of evil to the kids, as they want nothing to do with it. But ear infections are rampant in Haiti, so it’s important for him to check. As we lay the third screaming child on the cot to hold her down so that John can get a good look in her ear, he jokes, “ It must be bad child day today.” In reality, John likes to take care of kids because they have no interest in being seen by a doctor, which to him is a sensible attitude. “I didn’t ask to come here today and have that thing stuck in my ear,” he imagines the child saying to his mother. Many adults, on the other hand, are only too happy to go on and on about what ails them and will take all the attention a doctor can give them.

Being Friday, it’s a fairly light day at the clinic. We will see what next week holds.

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