HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Operation Smile/Haiti Update

Posted on | February 9, 2010 | No Comments

Bitter and Sweet

After becoming a part of the daily life of the Haitians in this camp it is time to say good-bye. Another team from Operation Smile will be relieving us and our last day was bitter and sweet.

The Bitter

We have a tent with three young girls ages 12, 9 and 7. Each has a below the knee amputation. Their dressings have to be changed every day and each day it is a struggle. They have warmed up to us and trust us but it is still painful for them so there are many, many tears. And the patients are not the only ones crying. We choke back the tears as we carefully and tenderly care for their wounds.

Each layer of gauze is peeled away to reveal a loss that they have not begun to deal with. Mother and daughter avert their eyes to avoid dealing with the obvious absence.

Today Geraldine who is 12 years old sat very still while I began to remove her dressing. As her stump was gradually revealed giant tears streamed down her face. However she did not move. She only cried and sang. I could not understand the Creole lyrics to her song so I asked someone to translate what she was saying. Her words were “Jesus, Jesus, why am I in such agony?” Repeated over and over again in a bath of tears and not moving a muscle. This was her strength and comfort. A 12 year old child that has already seen the pain of a lifetime and singing the words of an adult that has seen a life of misery.

Before the new team arrived we went from tent to tent saying our good-byes. Children, parents, and patients all giving us hugs and heartfelt “Merci’s.” (Thank You’s.) These patients are changed and moving forward. I hate leaving when I feel that they are depending on us for their continued health care. Having another Operation Smile group come to continue what we have started helps us leave with lighter hearts.

The Sweet

Yudmena, a sweet 9 year old girl whose entire right arm and hand was degloved in the earthquake, followed us to the bus. She is one of the few patients who is able to walk around independently. She wanted one more hug and one more kiss before we boarded the bus. She sat on the steps and waited there until the bus pulled out. It was like she was our send-off for all those left in the tents.

I have been with Operation Smile for ten years and people always ask me why I do it? There are many reasons and so often it is hard to put into words. Now I have a word – Yudmena.

– Marie Rathe, Clinical Coordinator, Medical Volunteer

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