Road Burns

Last night I treated a girl who had been in a moto accident 5 days ago. She had seen the Dr. once right after it happened but had not returned. She never even allowed anyone to clean the wounds. There were many road burn like wounds on her legs and buttocks. Two of them much worse than the others. They had treated them with pomade which is what the put in their hair to keep it from getting dry. The pomade was hardening to the skin around the wound and the wounds were covered with puss and filth. After seeing the wounds I told Esaie that she had to have treatment. With Esaie as my translator we discussed what needed to be done with her mother. Then went back to Thomas to pickup all the medical supplies I could get my hands on. This included a stop to pick up clarin (a Haitan made moonshine) since I didn’t have access to rubbing alcohol. We also grabbed a flash light and batteries as there is no power and very poor oil lamp lighting in the house where the wounded girl lay.

On the return trip I put on a dark olive-green cotton jacket, it was starting to get dark and it is safer for my white to be covered at night on the moto. On this night i am so glad I did! Not but five minutes from turning out of the road from Caf Thomas we notice that traffic had stopped, people were all over the street and road. Hundreds of them, funneling down into a dirt road on the right. On a moto we were able to start squeezing through, cars were at a stand still, God forbid a bus or large truck comes! The trucks and buses would just run them over, it happened recently where a truck killed 15 people who were part of a large group that were having what amounted to a party in the street. As we waited and tried to move down the road I told Esaie that I was feeling very uncomfortable. Men were throwing kiss faces and trying to get my attention, everyone that notices my white face (the rest of me was covered) stared and commented. Esaie agreed and said that we needed to get out of there and this situation was not safe for us. Our knees touching cars and people as we wove through the crowd, we finally managed to break free. Haiti means mountains upon mountains, in moments like that it means stress upon stress. This whole night as i was to learn would be stress upon stress.

Upon our return to the dimly lit modest home at the end of a really dark path, a path were people could hide and jump out at you path; I immediately gave her Advil, I wanted to get on top of the pain I was sure to cause her. I then cut my finger nails down to nothing, I didn’t have any medical gloves and didn’t want to introduce to her wounds any germs under my nails, then I washed my hands in the clarin. I don’t know people drink it, the smell could knock you out. I had Franck wash his hands in the clarin as well, so he could hand me items. I asked Mum, a neighbor woman who is friends with Esaie, to go to the girl’s head to comfort her. Esaie and another person took turns with the light and holding her leg down when the pain became to much, as it often did. The pomade was a problem, it has dried to a gummy but hard tree sap substance. Impossible to remove easily, I used water on gauze to soak the pomade mixed with fluids, to loosen it.  I went back and forth between the two wounds that needed attention. Using the clarin to wash them out and tweezers (previously washed in clarin) to remove pomade and debri from the wounds. She cried why why why, mum mum, she called out to God over and over. Franck became so upset he had to leave the room and then the house, i was so tied with what I was doing i didn’t notice for 10 minutes. Esaie felt like he needed to throw up, I just quietly sang and hummed hymns (they were what came to mind) now and then saying shhhh. I knew there was nothing more I could do for her pain, just to work efficiently so as to get done as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong i wanted to run away or throw up to. Many times tears would start to rise in my eyes, I would quench them and chose a new song. There was no choice, I was doing what needed to be done, just like the time I gave my goat stitches with dental floss and a regular sewing needle. Sometimes you do what you have to do whether you like it or not. In Haiti is this is very frequent. By the time we left an hour later, she was bandaged with antibacterial cream on the wounds with instructions on how to use the Advil and the promise I would return the next night. I told her I would not have to put her in that pain again. We then headed out into the darkness. It wasn’t but 100 feet into our drive that the light on the moto went out and wouldn’t come back on. Just one more thing on this insane night. Over Esaie’s shoulder I am shinning a flashlight on the ground. Then seemingly out of know where came the people we had seen in the road on our return trip with the medical supplies. It was like some kind of insane parade. We stopped on the side of the road, we had no choice, they were filling the road with dancing, yelling, and a cart they were pulling. Their music blasted though the air, out of giant speakers placed on the cart. I could kick my self for being so tired and stressed from the medical work and shocked by what I was seeing that I didn’t pull out the video recorder! For five minutes we sat and watched as people danced, gyrated and walked by. Their voices filling the chill night air with song, chant, and load speech. My whole self was on alert, i have heard stories of crowds like this go out of control, and we were in the middle of it, for the second time. Finally the made it by us and We then returned to our flash light lit journey home. Along the roads side that night people had lit piles of trash on fire, some places on the road were so full of smoke you could see and your eyes began to burn have become very good on the moto over the past four years, but night-time in areas I haven’t been in before throw me off. Add to it no light but a yellow diving flash light and you have a stressed out person, not to mention that the medical care I had just given was tense and my body was strung out on stress. We made it back without major incident.



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