‘This clinic represents a great thing’

Haiti Health Ministries grows despite trials

GRESSIER, Haiti – People here get used to waiting – to see a doctor, to find affordable medicine, to find something to smile about.

Girl Getting Ankle Set HHM

Dr. Jim Wilkins (center) and helper Jenn Philogene set a patient’s broken ankle. Adam Malooly photo.

One by one, their names get called. They check in, put their $1.75 (U.S.) consultation fee into a cashbox full of grimy bills and then wait a little longer. Those with a scheduled rendezvous (appointment) get seen first, followed by return patients, followed by new patients.

Depending on available staff, the workers here typically see 130 patients a day. They diagnose and treat a medical textbook worth of ailments, including malnutrition, HIV, broken bones and many types of cancer. Most funding for the clinic comes from outside donations – a big reason why it can offer inexpensive tests such as $6 X-rays and $12 breast biopsies.

HHM operated a clinic in nearby Christianville for about seven years. However, when the January 2010 earthquake destroyed that facility, instead of rebuilding it, founders Jim and Sandy Wilkins decided to make a fresh start on land in Gressier that became available after the quake. With donated tents, Jim and Sandy moved their clinic to its current location in February 2011. They immediately began planning the new building that they’re hoping to move into at the end of this month.

New digs soon

The new building will allow Jim Wilkins, a family physician for 35 years, and his staff to run clinics more efficiently. It also allows them to operate in a facility that isn’t always in danger of having storms rip its roof off.

“It’s a fabulous facility,” says Sandy Wilkins, 59, who serves as the clinic’s administrator. “My husband designed it. [He’s] been in family practice for 35 years and he knows a lot about what is the most effective, efficient way to run people through a clinic and see the most people and do it the best way.”

Women Waiting at HHM

A trio of women wait outside a tent at Haiti Health Ministries. Lincoln Brunner photo

“This clinic represents a great thing for this area,” Charlemagne says through a translator. “Before when someone was sick, we just carried him on a door to bring him to the hospital. Some people carried them two kilometers to a car to drive them to the hospital.”

Return patient Marie Yoline Torchon came today to get her heart problem treated.

“I have a problem with my heart, and it’s really, really hard,” Torchon, 26, says in Creole through a translator. “When I’m working, it’s beating really fast. I’m feeling good here, because they take care of people really well, and I feel really welcome here.”

Today, three physicians (one American, two Haitian) and three nurses do blood sugar tests, perform an EKG and record vital statistics on just about everyone in a second 50-ft. tent set end-to-end with the first one.

In the back corner of the tent, Jim Wilkins and nurse helper Jenn Rogan set a broken ankle with wet-and-set gauze infused with plaster. Wilkins talks Rogan through soaking and wringing out the plaster wrap and how to wind it properly around the ankle.

Doing what they can

Emily Hughes, RN, takes a blood pressure reading on a patient at HHM.

Emily Hughes, RN, takes a blood pressure reading on a patient at HHM. Adam Malooly photo

“I guess the thing that bothers me the most in Haiti is, the culture is so detrimental to progress,” Jim Wilkins says. “And a lot of that is the voodoo culture. It’s very fatalistic; everything is in the hands of pagan gods, so it really doesn’t help one to try to better one’s self. It’s a very fatalistic nation, and the country has reaped the consequence of that for years and years.”

Consequently, missionaries in Haiti need the prayer support of their fellow Christians, says Marie Daly, a nurse practitioner from the Dallas area who has worked at the clinic for the past seven months. Daly and others at the clinic read from the Bible and other Christian literature every morning to people waiting for their rendezvous, and many patients have professed faith in Christ right there.

“I do believe very strongly that prayer is very important,” Daly says. “I think as missionaries we can get very discouraged. I sense when people are praying for me, and I really appreciate it.”

Seeing the number of patients, and the kinds of sickness, that HHM sees also can drain the staff’s energy. Treating a malnourished girl today reminds registered nurse Emily Hughes of another girl just like her who came to the clinic a few weeks ago but then died – and suddenly her eyes grow wet.

“Seeing that again, and just knowing what can happen is really, really hard,” says Hughes, 22, of Madison, Ala. “I guess seeing kids like that that do come back and get bigger and grow – that’s really exciting. Because otherwise, they wouldn’t have the resources to do that. So the little bit of stuff that we can do here is better than nothing.”

One Comment

  1. I love reading these stories; it’s great knowing what God is doing around the world. It’s nice to read some positive reports about what’s going on in the world. Even though the circumstances may be tragic there is still hope for the future. Keep up the good work!

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