Monday, June 21, 2010

Chanting in Haiti..

The week I was in Haiti, I was the pediatric and newborn intensivist. I ran the combined NICU and PICU servicing upwards of 20 patients, the first and only such unit in Haiti. I worked with an amazing team and had lots of help and support. Still it was hard. We had lots and lots of really, really sick infants and toddlers brought into us. Sadly, often near death from dehydration or infection.

The first few days it seemed like there was some direct line from what I was doing behind the curtain that divided the ICU from the peds ward that would let them know when I child was fighting for its life. Without fail they'd start into a religious chant. The entire peds ward would fill with the sounds of the chanting, while the parents, patients, and the workers would clap, dance, and sing. The sound was sometimes deafening but spine-tingling at the same time. Reminding me that I wasn't alone in what I was doing.

On and on the dancing and chanting would go. We would sometimes wish for silence so we could do our jobs, but never really. The experience was too amazing if not otherworldly surreal.

A video that includes the chanting...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I’ve wanted to write about Haiti, but right now I’m feeling the transition back to my real life… So, sorry that’s what’s on my mind…

While I was in Haiti, I constantly was forced to make decisions based on allocation of limited resources, decisions based on the needs of group, it is not something I am used to. Alas, it is a reality there, if you have two functioning ventilators and three babies who might benefit from being ventilated a choice must be made. Those aren’t easy choices, and they tug at my soul, but I don’t question any of the choices I made. I had to trust in myself, in my training, in my skills.

Yet here we don’t have to make those choices, at least not so acutely. The other night, I was at work and confronted by the futility of so many of our patients. The dichotomy of my limitations in Haiti where I know with a few more resources, I could have saved some of those kids v, the reality of US medicine where we often go beyond what is reasonable tore at my heart.

After the night was over, I sat outside, I ate my breakfast, and I thought. U2’s lyrics played through my head. “Its not where we live that should determine if we live or die.” The problem is, I was equally torn by the kids I couldn’t save in Haiti as those I can here but for whom there is no life, no real independent life. I cried for all of them. I never cry, but alas the emotions overtook me. So, I just sat there and I cried in my coffee. I let emotion have 10 minutes then I collected myself and I went back to work. I had no choice.

I know in time I’ll sort this out. But for now, I’m going to feel this and maybe it’ll help me be a better doctor or maybe just a better person