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It Doesn’t Take Much

February 7, 2008

Written from Haiti by Sarah Case, Jan/Feb 2008 team member:

The day we flew to Haiti, I had worked until noon. Just before I left, I stopped by the desk of one of my co-workers to say hello. He asked me a few questions about the trip and then pulled out his wallet. “Can you take a cash donation? I’ll give you what I have in my wallet,” he said, and handed me a twenty. I thanked him and told him I’d make sure it went to good use.

Exactly one week later, I still had that twenty dollar bill tucked in my bag with a Post-It note attached, reminding me that it was intended for “something good” in Terre Blanche.

This afternoon, I was assisting Dr. Shellie, who is completing an infectious diseases fellowship at OHSU. One of our patients was a gaunt-looking 22-year-old woman, who said she had been coughing up blood. According to her chart, she had come to the clinic in October, the last time a team of doctors was here. On that visit, the doctor noted that the patient had been coughing up blood and needed to go to Gonaives (where the nearest hospital is located) for a chest X-ray to rule out tuberculosis.

Today, four months later, she was back at the clinic with the same symptoms but she hadn’t gotten an X-ray. When Dr. Shellie asked if the woman could get an X-ray, she replied that she would like to do it but the test would cost about one hundred Haitian dollars, the equivalent of twenty U.S. dollars. I asked, through the interpreter, if she would be able to get transportation to Gonaives if the test fees were taken care of. She nodded.

After checking with a team leader to make sure I wasn’t stepping outside of our protocol, I ran upstairs and grabbed that same twenty dollar bill out of my carry-on bag and brought it to Pastor Delamy, who arranged for our patient to go to Gonaives. The patient must have figured out where the money came from because she approached me and, holding the money out in her hand, said, “Mesi anpil” (Thank you very much).

I can’t wait to tell my co-worker that his pocket money is buying life-saving diagnostics for a young woman who ought to have a full, healthy life ahead of her.

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