I walked home along the starlit dirt road as the roosters started to crow and the 5am church sermon began. That is how I knew I had spent all night at the clinic taking care of the latest wave of cholera patients, this time mostly children. Around 6pm the previous evening, I casually walked into the clinic to check on our 50 or so patients who had mostly recovered from the last outbreak. I was shocked to find the clinic was overwhelmed with what would prove to be the biggest cholera outbreak Haute Limbe, Haiti, has seen yet. I ran home to change into scrubs and fill my pockets with gloves, hand sanitizer, tourniquets, tape and my precious headlamp.
When I returned, I witnessed benches full of skinny, gray, limp children slung over buckets to catch what was gushing out of both ends. The staff was setting up makeshift cots and cutting a hole out of the center to catch the liquid waste pouring out of patients too weak to sit themselves on a bucket. The characteristic smell of rice water hung heavy in the humid, unventilated rooms. Every inch of space was occupied with no room to move.
Haitians, instead of saying "ow" to express pain say, something that sounds like "why" so all throughout the night kids were wailing "why" as we intravenously pumped their little bodies full of fluids. Their family members lovingly sat by their side, bathed them, emptied their buckets, shooed away the malaria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes while singing their loved ones to sleep. In the background, a radio played a mixture of Caribbean music, Céline Dion and Christmas songs to lift everyone's spirits.
That night, as I stood shivering in the cold shower I had been complaining about earlier during the trip, I held my hand out to grab the precious drops of the wonderful precious substance raining down on me. Dear clean water—I will never take you for granted ever again.
Scenery Samundra is a pre-medical student who recently traveled to Haute Limbe, Haiti to work in Ebenezer Community Clinic.
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