Published: January 11th 2011January 11th 2011
“You’ve gotten fatter!” is how Michelle Miney (“Michelle”) greeted me cheerfully and followed with a huge hug! I first met Michelle almost a year ago, to the day in “Wimbledon,” where Merlin had set up its emergency field hospital on abandoned tennis courts in Delmas 33, just days after the Earthquake. I remember her radiant smile and peppy personality which uplifted us all, patients and staff alike. It was clear then, that there was a lot more to Michelle than her beautiful smile and friendly spirit… A few days watching her in action, I soon realized that her bubbly personality also came with a serious sense of commitment and immense professionalism. Working around the clock with our emergency medical team, Michelle was instrumental in Merlin’s emergency response, helping to carry out over 390 surgical procedures and ultimately providing primary health care for nearly 7,500 people.
Michelle has worked as a nurse for 29 years (started out when she was 25 years old). I remember our conversations almost a year ago (whenever I could get a few seconds of her busy time) and I distinctly remember her passionate motivation. “I became a nurse,” she said, “because I feel very close to
the people of Port au Prince, the city that she was born in and has lived her whole life… I love the people here and I hate to see them suffer… I see poor injured people in the streets and that really resonates for me… I want to help those people as best I can.” Cognizant of the harsh realities, yet undaunted by the challenge at hand, Michelle did just that – help! Everyone at Merlin recognized her competence, dedication and reliability! In fact, shortly thereafter (in May), when Merlin started its mobile clinics around Port au Prince, Michelle was promoted to Nurse Supervisor, a position she proudly held for 6 months. Keeping up with her hard working habits, Michelle was subsequently promoted to Supervisor of our Cholera Treatment Center (“CTC”) as soon as Merlin opened its door in Bas Boen, on December 1, 2010. Since assuming this challenging post, she has seen close to 900 patients.
Watching her methodically monitor the center’s activity, it is clear that Michelle is always on her feet and ready to act. “It’s different than working in a general clinic,” according to Michelle because “you’re constantly moving… There is a much greater sense
of urgency!” “Dehydration,“ she insists, “happens very quickly and we are forced to act fast in order to keep patients alive!” In addition, Michelle highlights the difficulties she faces on a daily basis, as the Center’s Supervisor. The biggest challenge, she points out, “is that you have to be much stricter with the staff to ensure that that each patient is properly re-hydrated and that the hygiene protocol is properly respected.” It’s hard to imagine Michelle raise her voice or get upset at anyone, but seeing the way she has gained the respect of her team, it’s safe to say that Michelle runs a tight ship here at the CTC. “We have a great coordinated team of competent staff here,” she stresses. “I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to treat many infected patients and save so many lives – thanks to the vigilance of this team.” When asked to give me specific examples, Michelle eludes to the fact that “this amazing team of nurses always manages to find a vein, even in the most dehydrated cases… WE ALWAYS FIND THEM!” This is certainly something to be proud of, as I’ve often heard how difficult it is
to do so, when dealing with severely-dehydrated patients, whose veins almost seem impossible to locate in order to perform intravenous therapy.
Suddenly, the phone rings. One of the Doctors who is scheduled to come in later this afternoon, is calling her to check up on her. Evidently, Michelle had not been feeling well this morning. “Don’t worry, I’m doing fine” she answers, reassuringly… “What?! You thought it was cholera, no way, I’m in great shape! I just needed a little rest and a coca cola!,” she concludes before getting back to our conversation. And that’s precisely the type of team that Michelle has in place – professional and dedicated colleagues who, despite their busy schedules, still find the time to ensure that the staff is doing well… This balance of hard work and positive attitude undoubtedly contributes to the fact that the number of patients coming in and out of our CTC has been consistently going down, something that Michelle is very proud of.
Thanks to Michelle and a steadfast emergency response, Merlin reacted quickly and efficiently to the cholera epidemic. It is now operating five CTCs with a combined capacity of around 350 beds, as well as
additional CTUs and oral rehydration points. So far, Michelle and our Cholera response team across the country have treated over 5,000 patients in just six weeks.
I vividly remember talking with Michelle last year about her aspirations to open an orphanage some day. Today, she still holds on to that dream, but needs help… “My entire salary goes to my kids and their studies.” With two children (a boy and a girl), both studying Medicine in the Dominican Republic, it’s no wonder that Michelle has little money saved to pursue her goal. What is even harder is for her to wrap her head around the fact that she has not seen her oldest daughter, Medge-Lee (35) in 12 years! Currently living in Brooklyn, NY and working as a primary school teacher, (something that Michelle is visibly very proud of), Medge-Lee has 3 children, one of whom , Michelle has never had a chance to meet. “We speak every week on the phone, but I’ve been waiting for so long to get approved for a visa to travel to the US to see her,” explains Michelle… “But unfortunately, the embassy keeps turning me down.” I will keep trying!,” she assures
me, with that familiar smile!
It really hurts and irks me to hear this – here is a woman who has been working incredibly hard for almost 30 years, helping the people of Haiti and making more of a difference than most people I know combined, and yet who cannot be “approved” to go see her daughter! Something is not right with this and I am truly appalled (and embarrassed) to know that the country I call home will not grant her this simple wish! The only meager solace I have to offer is a promise that I will visit Medge-Lee next week (in New York) and will bring with me, a small care package from Haiti as well as photos of her wonderful mother and the Merlin team – a team which she has been an instrumental part of. I called Medge-Lee while sitting next to Michelle and asked whether or not she would be amenable to this. “I would love that,” she exclaimed… “You can come for dinner and meet the rest of the family!” According to her mother, however, I should probably start watching my diet so that the next time I come to Haiti, she won’t comment on how much weight I’ve gained!