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This afternoon we took another pediatric patient to the general hospital in Jérémie. We had seen him, a three-year old boy, last Thursday with fever and malaria. Since his father died and his mother lives in Port-au-Prince, he lives with his grandmother in a community near the clinic. We told the grandmother that if he wasn’t doing well over the weekend to take him down to Jérémie to the hospital. As it turned out, his fever came down but he developed diarrhea and wouldn’t eat. She gave him some juice, but other women in the community unfortunately advised her against giving him water, saying that it would somehow make him weaker. She was sitting there on the bench outside the clinic when we arrived this morning. It was obvious that the child was severely dehydrated, his little eyes sunken and his cries weak. We suggested that she take him down to the hospital right away, but she shook her head and said that was impossible. She didn’t know where to go, had no one to help her and had no money. So, we had her give him oral rehydration fluid all day there in the clinic, hoping that we could stabilize him enough to send him home. But, as we neared the end of the patient consultations, he had not improved and we knew that if we sent her home with him he would probably die during the night. So, the back of our pick-up truck became an ambulance once again, as we took the child and his grandma down the mountain to the hospital.

When we got there, I told the nurse on the pediatric ward the child’s history. She took some notes and sent someone off to get the doctor on call. She left the child lying on the examination table, and went off to take care of her other duties. My thoughts flashed back to the Emergency Departments where I used to work in Wisconsin. “Isn’t severe dehydration an emergency?” I thought. “Where is all the activity – drawing blood, starting an IV, nurse at his side, doctor in the room immediately?” Then, I realized with all too much clarity, that this, indeed, wasn’t Wisconsin, and in the nurse’s mind, this “emergency” could wait a few more minutes. Cherlie and I, however, were getting increasingly uncomfortable, so I finally suggested that I go to the pharmacy to buy a bottle of IV solution for the child (patient’s families generally have to buy all medications, needles, IV solutions and supplies for the patients before they are given any care). I figured this was a good way to get the ball rolling without being offensive. So, I bought the IV solution, but the pharmacy didn’t have the right size IV needle. The nurse said she would “lend” one from their supply, and began gathering gauze, alcohol, tape, tourniquet, etc. to prepare to start the IV. Finally, after another 30 minutes, the IV was in the young boy’s arm and the IV solution was running. I breathed a silent prayer of gratitude. Shortly thereafter, the on-call doctor came in and I again related the child’s history. He turned to write his admitting note and orders and it was obvious my presence there was no longer needed. So, we left some money with the grandmother, said we’d check on the child tomorrow and went on home.

As I sit here thinking about and praying for the little boy, I also think and pray about our clinic and the potential we have to impact lives such as this. Had the grandmother and her neighbors been more knowledgeable about childhood diarrhea and the importance of the use of oral rehydration solution, the child’s dehydration might have been treated sooner and been less severe. That’s why community education and health teaching is so important. And, if we had a clinic building and living quarters built there in Gatineau, we would be able to offer medical care daily, so the grandmother could have brought him back for re-evaluation sooner. And, if we had our clinic functioning and fully staffed for emergencies, we would be able to give him IV fluids during the day and keep him overnight, if necessary, rather than taking him to the local hospital, where emergencies aren’t urgencies and very little care is given without money available first.

As you think about this little boy, please pray with us that the “if only’s” will someday become reality.

On July 11th, Courtney Ley, of Shirley, Massachusetts is embarking on a rugged, 64 mile hike to raise funds and awareness for Friends for Health in Haiti.

Courtney heard about Friends for Health in Haiti from her friend Pamela Adams. Pam grew up in Haiti, which is where she met and got to know Dr. Katie Wolf. One day, Pam and Courtney were hiking in the New Hampshire mountains and talking about how people in Haiti walk up and down mountains just to get home. Pam commented that she never really understood hiking as a recreational sport! This struck a chord with Courtney and now she is planning the longest continuous hike of her hiking career to benefit Friends for Health in Haiti.

Courtney is planning to hike the Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, not once, but twice! The Pemi Loop, rated the 2nd most difficult day hike in the U.S. by Backpacker Magazine, includes eight mountain peaks and an elevation change of 18,000 feet. It’s also notorious for it’s “knee-hammering” rocky trails and miles of exposed ridgeline. Courtney is currently spending her weekends doing 20-30 mile training hikes.

Bondcliff, the last peak in the Pemi Loop

Bondcliff, the last peak in the Pemi Loop

Regarding the hike itself, Courtney says “I plan to begin the hike Friday night July 11th at around 8 p.m.  Hike throughout the night and have completed a little more than half of the first loop, up and over 6 mountains and 18 miles before the sun rises on Saturday. I’d like to watch the sunrise from on top of South Twin Mountain, a 4,902 foot peak.  From that point, I will be going over the last four mountains in the daylight and begin the second loop after 32 miles and 14-16 hours later.  I will be camping after about 8 miles into the second loop at the base of the summit of Mt Liberty (4,459 ft) for about 4-5 hours, depending on how I feel at that point.  From there, I hope to complete the last 40 miles through Saturday evening through the night and into Sunday morning.  My goal is to have hiked all 64 miles by Sunday afternoon July 13th“.

Courtney in Alaska a few weeks ago

Courtney in Alaska a few weeks ago

Courtney is 32 years old and works for an environmental consulting company. She has an extensive hiking background, having hiked up the 48 mountains in New Hampshire and half of the 46 mountains in New York’s Adirondacks. She climbed Mt. Ranier last year and just got back from a mountaineering course near Denali in Alaska. She is going to attempt to climb the Matterhorn in 2010 and she’s going for Denali in 2012.

Help cheer Courtney on! Leave a comment wishing her good luck.

If you’d like to make a donation to FHH in honor of Courtney’s hike, click to go to our PayPal donation page. Put Courtney’s name in the message field.

And stay tuned! Courtney will be doing a guest post about her experience when she’s completed her trek.