Since Bridges first trip to Haiti in 2010, the need for our healthcare services has been demonstrated again and again. Our director of field operations, Arnel Eugenio, recounts his first trip:
Upon our arrival in Haiti, we immediately set up the clinics and visited several orphanages. The enormous need for dental care was a surprise. My thought during the pre-trip prep was, I would work triage and help out the medical team. Little did I realize, I would be the busiest provider for this mission. Our host, Linotte Joseph, told me that I was the first dentist to ever set foot in their town. Subsequently, I was to be the only one for several years to come.
In one orphanage, called Ebenezer, there were at least eighty children and most of them ended up in my line. The caretaker told us that their run-down facility was originally built to house about a dozen children, but since the earthquake, people would just drop off children they had picked up, for them to be cared for. Within a few months, their numbers increased. One of the biggest health care issues was toothaches. I couldn’t imagine how all these children were crying at night from toothaches, and with no hope for relief but to ride out the pain. I ended up extracting teeth until sundown and would have kept going if we had electricity.
As the week wore on, the challenges grew. Word got out that a medical team was in town so people lined up for hours to be seen. Our driver, Gustav, complained of a toothache but patiently waited for everyone to be seen and even assisted me by holding up a flashlight and then helping me to clean up. We started to shut down as nighttime set in because it became difficult to see, even with a flashlight. Gustav then asked me when it would be his turn, and I didn’t have the heart to turn him down. I rolled up my sleeves and started what would be a very difficult surgical extraction that took over an hour.
Dentistry in the dark. With no electricity or running water, we had to rely on flashlights to be able to work. I will never forget that first trip.
Medical needs, medicine and pharmacology in developing countries are just as underserved as dentistry. The Bridges Global Missions team always includes medically trained personnel who can meet the needs of the local population.
An example from one of our Haiti missions:
The cholera epidemic had spread throughout Haiti and, without adequate antibiotics, people were dying everywhere. The only two hospitals were in Port-Au-Prince, an hour to the south of Carries, and Saint Marc, an hour to the north.
Our Medical Director, Dr. Jasmine Eugenio, had sent a young mother with a very sick 3 month old baby to St. Marc’s hospital for further treatment. Unfortunately, she was turned away after waiting for hours due to overcrowding from the cholera epidemic. The mother came back to our facility around midnight, begging for us to treat her baby. After a thorough assessment, Jasmine, who is a pediatrician, knew that the baby was in impending septic shock and needed intravenous antibiotics and IV fluids. The mother and baby were placed in one of the hotel rooms and the team proceeded to care for the baby as an inpatient, giving round the clock antibiotics and IV fluids as needed. The baby recovered. This situation reverberated throughout out numerous trips to Haiti. Mothers and community members bringing their sick or dying child to our doorstep for lack of health care in their village. Ms. Josephs hotel often functioned as an urgent care whenever we are there.