Published: March 7th 2018
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Today was our “day off,” which I admit I was not in favour of initially. We were only in Haiti for a week so I thought we should be working as much as we possibly could while we were there. I didn’t feel leisure time was appropriate. However our day off ended up being so much fun that I am glad we did it. Additionally, I realized that not everyone is used to working crazy resident hours. Twelve+ hour days for five days straight is a lot, and the team as a whole was ready for a break.

Before we set off, Deirdre and I put on some lectures for the Haitian residents. We had a good turnout and the residents were engaged. I gave lectures on pediatric femur fracture management and distal humerus fractures and Dierdre talked about options for distal femur fractures (in adults). Dr. Coles had planned to be involved but the poor guy had come down with some kind of illness which took him out most of the night. We are not really sure what it was since we had all eaten similar things, but nevertheless something hit him. He rallied well, but I was happy to give an extra lecture to let him have a bit of a rest. He had actually been giving lectures to the residents pretty much every morning we had been there, but this was the main academic teaching day of the trip so we had a longer session planned.

After teaching I quickly filled my water bottle and loaded up on bug spray and then we were off. This time our transportation had forward facing seats and a bit of A/C, but it was still cramped quarters for the 16 of us. I thought my bench was going to be reasonably comfortable until the driver told me to shove over because “the guy who closes the door is going to sit there.” I could have done that… but we took our personal doorman with us anyway, just in case =)

We made our way through the busy, lively streets of the city until winding up a long mountain road to an “observatory.” It was actually nice to get out and see the city alive because up to this point we had only been out at night for late dinners, otherwise we were
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The boardroom we gave our teaching sessions in was shockingly comfortable. They had a projector, whiteboard, and nice chairs.
sequestered in the gated compound of the hospital, so we had not seen Port-au-Prince in full colour. Some of our group were struck with the poverty and apparent chaos of it all, but after travelling to many developing nations I didn’t feel the same shock factor (I’m not sure if I should be concerned about that). In fact, for an incredibly poor city of some 2 million people I was impressed with the cleanliness and general calmness of both people and traffic. Traffic took turns in a relatively orderly manner, pedestrians calmly sauntered across streets, honking was at a minimum, and no one tried to mob our vehicle at any point. Were people living in shanty shacks and selling meagre items in the direct, blazing sun? Yes. Did many people live without easy access to water and electricity? Yes. But somehow, they were making it work or at least giving that impression. All over there were buildings in states of partial construction, which I suspect had been destroyed by the earthquake and had not been rebuilt yet.

After quite a drive we arrived at an impressive lookout spot high on a mountain at the edge of the city. I had thought we were going to an old astronomical observatory (I would not have been surprised if one had been constructed during colonial times) but that was not the case. This was clearly a common tourist location as there was a restaurant here and a large market of people selling souvenirs. We had planned to have lunch there but there was a sign saying the restaurant would not be open today, for whatever reason. It was noticeably cooler up high in the hills and I was actually almost chilly when the sun went behind a cloud. Some of our group ventured out to buy jewellery and paintings but I hung back and enjoyed the view. I hate bartering and quite honestly all I can think about whenever I buy something new now is that I am going to have to pack it up and move it to Canmore in a few months, so I was not very motivated.

Since the restaurant was closed we decided to go straight to the hotel where we would be spending the afternoon of relaxation. I was not sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect anything too fancy. I was wrong!! This was a gorgeous resort with a sunny pool deck with swim up bar, lush garden walking area, and friendly, wonderful staff. What unexpected paradise! For a small fee we had the privilege of using the pool facilities (which we had all to ourselves that afternoon), and the fee would be credited towards food and drink, both of which were excellent. Although I was slightly paranoid about sunburn and bug bites I still managed to enjoy a thoroughly amazing nap in the sun after a quick dip in the pool. No complaints! About half of our group had continued on after we were dropped off at the hotel. They went to visit an orphanage. They had brought some items like clothes, toothbrushes, and candy for the kids and spent about an hour playing with them. I did not go because I did not really understand what they would be doing there, and I felt like it was a bit inappropriate to visit an orphanage like a tourist attraction. That was ignorance on my part, though. I did not realize that the group had contacted the orphanage in advance and made an effort to bring items that were required, such as clothes for older boys. I guess I was just out of the loop on that one. From the pictures I saw it looked like everyone had a great time. The kids sure were cute!

After a wonderful afternoon of louging, I noticed a very ominous cloud on the horizon, and it was moving in QUICKLY. It was getting dark anyway so we were ready to move in to the restaurant and away from the pool. I got into the lobby area just in time. What a downpour! The kind where you would get immediately drenched from 5seconds out from cover. There had been rain the last couple of evenings but I was always in the OR and missed it. This was harder than anything we had experienced yet. The city needed it, though, as they had received almost no raind so far, 6 weeks into the “rainy season.”

Wet and cold, we huddled to the restaurant in search of food and warmth. They opened up a large private banquet room just for us! And, immediately turned on the air conditioning. We asked them to turn it off – we were happy with the heat! I should mention that there was some kind of Carribean summit going on in PaP and a number of dignitaries and diplomats were staying at this hotel so there were armed security guards everywhere, making for an interesting atmosphere.

Dinner was lovely and it was a nice chance to sit with everyone for one last time. Chad and Jodi are going home early tomorrow. It was Amber’s (OR nurse) 30th birthday today and her very thoughtful friends had brought candles along, so we had a cake delivered and sung her happy birthday! She was pretty pleased with how her big 3-0 was celebrated.

Finally it was time to head back home to our considerably more modest accommodations. Some continued the celebrations back at the dorm but not me – I am an old lady and was ready for bed =) Plus, I was getting in the zone for the next day of operating. Up to this point Dr. Coles had always been available as back up if we needed him. Tomorrow he will be heading back to Canada. Although I am certified and licensed, of course, to operate independently I have always been in a situation where there was someone in the OR next door who could peak in and help out if I ran into trouble. Tomorrow – the buck will stop with me! I am confident all will be fine, but I also want to be as prepared as I can be and set myself up for success. Hopefully Dierdre was able to round up some people who need surgery for us. Not sure what the day will hold.


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