Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The work at hand

While we were planning our trip to Haiti, I wasn't sure what kind of work I'd be doing.  The organization that we were going to volunteer at didn't seem to have a need for pharmacists, but I told the people in charge of volunteers that I'd do any kind of work they had for me.  I didn't what I'd be doing, and even wondered if the trip would be worth the time.  Well, on Saturday morning while we were waiting outside of our hotel in Fort Lauderdale for the shuttle to take us to the airport, I checked my email in my iPhone.  I received an email from the pharmacist that had just been there.  She gave me a list of projects that she wasn't able to finish.  It was great to feel like I had a job to do. The main job I had was that of relocating the pharmacy.

It was in a tent, which was unsecured.  The narcotics, maxi pads, and protein shakes where all locked up.  Theft was a problem with the maxi pads and protein shakes, not so much with the narcotics.  I think that says something about the poverty in the local community.  People were concerned with getting their basic needs - like personal hygiene and nutrition- met.  They were not concerned with getting high.  This is what the pharmacy looked like when I got there.  It was a barely organized mess.  I had a very hard time finding stuff.

I didn't have a tremendous amount of patient contact.  Most of the time I was getting medication for a nurse or doctor.  I did have a few patients come for medication.  One patient was a young man, probably about 20 years old.  One of his legs had been amputated because of an injury during the earthquake.  He was getting around with crutches.  He told me that both of his parents were dead.  My heart went out to him.  I wondered who was caring for him and what his future would hold.

It was hot in the tent, and that was another reason the pharmacy needed to be moved.  It is not good to store drugs above room temperature, and it was certainly above room temp!  Things were pretty basic.  No computer and no real filling system.  I didn't even use bottles to dispense the meds.  The nurses wanted their meds in little plastic bags because they took up less space.  So that's what I used.

It had been about 2 years since I had worked with traditional medication.  I had to look several things up, but most of it came right back.  One issue I had was with foreign meds and foreign names of medications.  The hospital used some medications that aren't used here in the states, and I had to quickly educate myself about them.
There was a degree of improvisation needed.  We had a lot of sharps containers, but I could not find the lids for them anywhere.  This what a nurse and I rigged up.  At least it provided a separate waste container for their used syringes.

 This is Lou Lou.  He was a Haitian volunteer who helped out in the pharmacy.  He spoke a little English, and he tried to teach me some Creole, but it didn't take.  He was very helpful on the day we moved the pharmacy.

This is where the pharmacy was moved.  These men were building shelves.  It was a secure room with an iron door that could be locked.
This is what it looked like after everything was moved.  I had help from several people getting everything moved and organized. 

Much better.


  1. Loved reading about your work while you were in Haiti. Looks like you had plenty to keep you busy and I'm sure the next pharmacist that arrived appreciated your hard work in setting up the new work area. Hope you are rested up now. Thanks for giving of yourself!

  2. How I love an organizing project! I'm sure your help was greatly appreciated! I agree with Lea, I'm sure the volunteers coming in after you will LOVE all that you accomplished. Thanks for sharing it with us.