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Life and Death in Haïti . . . why NOVA’s mission matters

Patient and Practitioner, the long walk back home

This four-year old little girl was carried on her frail mother’s shoulders some five miles through the countryside from the pounded earth floor of their thatched mountainside hut to NOVA’s 11th medical mission this past April 2011.  Word spreads fast in Haïti and this child had been ill with recurring respiratory distress.  Shortness of breath and air hunger are anguishing symptoms, especially for a child who does not understand.  She was treated with inhalation therapy and antibiotics.  Fortunately, Libby Barrett had volunteered for this trip, a registered nurse and pulmonary specialist from Saint Vincent’s Hospital in New York City where she had worked for years with cystic fibrosis patients and their lung complications.  She spent the entire afternoon cupping and clapping this child’s chest to clear inspissated secretions. When the clinic closed at sunset, there was no alternative for child and mother other than to return home.  We drove them part of the way but their hut was inaccessible for a long distance by anything but foot paths and several helped them with this long hike back home.  Arrangements were made for follow up care at the NOVA clinic the next day.  Although she showed signs of improvement, this child was in trouble and we were a day away from packing up the NOVA clinic for six months.  We provided funds for the child to be seen at a hospital facility an hour away but we returned to the States with misgivings.   NOVA maintains active records in the States of the very sick that were evaluated on these trips and we try to intervene when we can from a distance.  Sadly, our follow up phone calls revealed that this four-year old girl had perished at the hospital facility to which we had referred her.

Would this child have survived had NOVA’s permanent medical facility been in place and functioning under the care of its permanent staff?  No one can say.  What is clear is that tragedies like this one underscore the need for a permanent NOVA facility . . . and the quicker the better.  With sophisticated medicines procured at less-than-cost prices through the auspices of the IDA Foundation in Amsterdam, Holland, and the commitment of dedicated and concerned professional volunteers applying the the principles of  modern up-to-date treatment, the chances of survivorship in heart rending cases like these will be greatly enhanced.  This sad case has been a clarion call for us all to join hands with renewed vigor and establish NOVA’s permanent clinic by year’s end.

Will you help us accomplish this?

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