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Guest Blog: Clinical Work In Haiti

Medelita HIP Ambassador Beth Smolko, PA-C found her passion in delivering mobile healthcare in the US and developing countries while volunteering in a mobile medical unit in Tucson, AZ during PA school. Since then, Beth founded the non-profit organization The Heart Of Medicine, through which she has organized multiple trips to the underserved country of Haiti. During these relief trips, Beth and her team help to staff local clinics and makeshift spaces to bring healthcare and medicine to people in the region.

Haiti is such a special place to practice medicine. Haitians laugh, big belly laughs, even when times are hard. They are kind and giving. I've seen people wait 10 hours to be seen by a provider, only to give their spot away for a stranger who is older or sounds sicker. I can give everything I have (physically, emotionally, spiritually) to them but I always come home with more than I gave. -Beth Smolko, PA-C

Beth's compassion and dedication have driven her work in Haiti, and her love for the work she does in the area shines through in her writing. Read an excerpt from The Heart Of Medicine blog, where Beth writes about her travels and describes her experiences working with the people of Haiti.

Haiti Day 4 - Little Blessings

 November 10, 2015
We started the day at a clinic in Delmas Area of Port-Au-Prince. It was a lot more relaxed with a good flow of patients and the sweetest little babies. There is something about seeing a child bouncing around in their mother's arms as she desperately tries to explain how sick they are that gives you the giggles. I've been there too many times myself. "I swear he was vomiting with a fever out in the waiting room..." It is a blessing that babies bounce back faster from illness than mothers. There was a few more cases that will worry me into the night. A woman with cold hands and a heart rate in the 120s. There were two women with sudden weight loss, weakness, cough, and reporting fevers that only come at night (CBC, rapid malaria test, HIV, and PPD ordered). I'll see them on Thursday to follow-up. We saw 25 patients in the first clinic, went back to the house briefly for lunch and then proceeded to the next clinic back at the church. It was very busy. After 3.5 hours we saw another 35 patients. I won't lie, my sunny disposition was a bit spoiled by the end. I just wanted to not think anymore. We rode back tired and ready to collapse into bed. When we got back, however, I smelled something wonderful. My favorite Haitian-style oatmeal! It was the best comfort food ever. As we sat at the dinner table, we shared our favorite part of the day. I loved the babies. Sharon loved the morning clinic. Braden laughed and recalled a gentleman who came into the clinic for urinary pain. When we asked the patient if he had any sexual partners, he replied "No, but I have sex everyday." Oh boy... Laughter, bouncing babies, comfort food. Even the toughest day can't shake those little blessings that keep us moving forward.  

Haiti Day 5 - The One You Never Forget

 November 11, 2015
A child that lives in one of the toughest places in Haiti needs a wheelchair. The boy came in carried by his mother but usually walks on his knees to get around. His crippled legs permanently bent and his knees swollen from his mode of ambulation, he charmed me with his broad smile instantly. He wasn't afraid of strangers, in fact he seemed to revel in his ability to draw you in. He came in to be evaluated to see if he could get an organization to donate a wheelchair. He and Braden laughed and made faces at each other while I measured his body, checked his range of motion, etc. His eyes seemed to dance even though his feet could not. I only spent 15 minutes with him but he stayed with me throughout the day. His joy was ever-present. We managed to see over 50 patients today between two clinics. There were so many children, including some challenging pediatric cases. I will post the picture of the rash on one girl's legs. If any of you recognize it, please send me a message. She gets the rash around this time every year. It itches and is painful. There was also a 56yo woman with new onset breast pain. Thankfully, we were in a clinic where I could do a breast exam (the other clinic is an open room). She had a solid mass and was in a lot of pain. There was no redness, rash, warmth, fever, etc to suggest a more benign cause such as infection. Fortunately, mammograms can be done in Port-Au-Prince. I gave her an order to have one done. I saw the same fear in her eyes that I have seen in so many women through the years, including my dear friends. I could only hold her hand for a moment before the next patient came in. We finished the day at the church clinic. In the past three days I've treated about 150 patients and some of our medications are running low but we will give everything we can until it's gone. I can't thank you all enough for providing me with the tools to help so many people. From gauze to ibuprofen, it's all being used. Goodnight from Haiti... IMG_5626+(1) IMG_5637 IMG_5677  IMG_5692
Learn more about The Heart Of Medicine and read Beth's blog here.