top of page


Communiqué #083


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

September 20, 2010

It seems that sometimes it takes returning to the USA to remind me what I am grateful for.   Reminders kicked into full force, during my recent fall, which resulted in a trip to the emergency room.  The fact that I was surrounded by friends, who immediately knew what to do to clean up my bloody scrapes and wrap my ankle in a makeshift ice bag, was the first blessing.  If I were to have been in Haiti, simple things like ice and plastic wrap and bandages would not have been readily available.   A motorcycle would have been my most likely mode of transportation to the hospital.  No wheelchair would have been there to get me from Point A to Point B.  Instead, a group of willing people would be grabbing an arm or a leg and would be struggling to get me to wherever I needed to go – down a flight of stairs, up onto the motorcycle, over the uneven curbs into the hospital, into an overcrowded room that would be lit only by a small candle, as there probably would be no electricity or a generator for power.  The hospital staff would have consisted of one or two people, with no doctor in sight.  A crowd of people, with more urgent needs, would be pushing and shoving for attention or waiting in whatever place they could find to sit or stand or lay.  Perhaps that place would be a rocky, dirty patch of ground outside the hospital where someone had recently urinated.  When it finally would be my turn to be attended to, the examination of my wounds would most likely take place in that same dimly lit room, with numerous curious bystanders, smothered up against my cot not wanting to miss any of the intimate or gruesome details.  If there were windows in the room, the windows would be without screens resulting in an influx of mosquitoes and swarms of flies.  Dirty or non-existent linens would on the exam cot (if one is fortunate enough to have a cot) and the overworked nurse would tell me that someone needs to go out and buy vinyl gloves and gauze and bandages and antibiotic cream before she can even begin to treat my bleeding scrapes. Never mind that no pharmacies are open at midnight and even if one rare pharmacy should be open, one may have to travel to eight or nine pharmacies to find the amount of the supplies that are needed, if you can find them at all.  Perhaps, in the morning, some of what is needed will be found and another wait for the nurse to be available would begin anew.  A doctor may or may not come to visit and if he does, he will again send one of the people who are with me back out into the city in search of ibuprofen or any other medication he thinks that I need.

My injury occurred on a Friday night.  Where I live in Haiti, we only have one orthopedic doctor!  He only comes to our city on Fridays, during the daytime.  This means that I would have had to wait until the NEXT Friday to see the doctor when he is back in town.

Getting an x-ray, at night, is not even an option. Getting an x-ray during daytime hours may be equally as much of a challenge.  I have been known to travel to three places before I could find an x-ray machine that was working or one that had x-ray film.  With no wheelchairs, no stretchers, nor any barrier-free paths to the radiologist’s office, getting to the office is another feat. Patients are served on a first-come basis.  You wait your turn behind the dozens of other persons who may also have been waiting a day or more to see the technician.  Prior to having the films made, a sizeable sum of money must be prepaid. At some locations, you can even watch as the x-rays are dried out on the sidewalk.  Once the x-rays are dry, they are placed on a piece of paper, labeled with your name.  The paper is tightly rolled up and secured by means of the longer edges of the paper being tucked inside the ends of the roll.  The rolled films are handed directly to you.  Now to find a doctor to read the x-rays!  Once in the doctor’s hands,  you may then learn that the images are unclear and useless for a diagnosis.  Following your visit to the radiologist’s office (that may have been blocks away from the hospital), you are jostled back to a room at the hospital to await some sort of plan for your care.  Oh! And, by the way, did I mention that someone must visit the hospital’s cash office, on your behalf, to pay the bill BEFORE you are treated?  Since the cash office is only open during the day, a Friday night injury might mean that you would not get treated until the cash office reopens, unless you find a sympathetic person who will believe that you will indeed pay the bill when the office does open.  Be assured that at your time of hospital dismissal,  you most certainly will not be sent home with crutches, or a walker, or a wheelchair, as there are none to be had!  Friends again will need to lift onto to some sort of transportation and take you wherever you need to go, even if this means up to a second or third floor bedroom or into an outdoor latrine, if mother nature comes to call.

I cannot tell you how many times that I said “Thank you God!” before, during and after my trip to the emergency room in Michigan.  Immediately following my injury, I used a chair for support to hobble to our friends’ van for the ride to the hospital.  I didn’t have to maneuver a myriad of uneven steps, broken or uneven sidewalk, or rocks and loose gravel or try to sidestep a urine-filled puddle while going to the van.  I was met at the hospital with a wheelchair with a leg support for an uncomplicated entrance into the hospital.  There was staff ready to attend to my needs almost immediately.  The rooms were clean and equipped with anything needed.  It was even equipped with things I did not need – things like a television for my viewing enjoyment and an actual chair for my husband to sit in to absorb what a real hospital should be equipped like.  A call from mother nature was actually a pleasant experience.  There was an actual room, wide enough for a wheelchair to ease me into the needed positions.  There was a sink with running water, both hot and cold, and soap and towels.  There was a light switch that actually worked – automatically!  Not one time on my journey from here to there did my toes bump into a wall, as all spaces were wide and spacious enough for the maneuvering of a wheelchair and its rider.  X-rays were done right on the premises. Ibuprofen was readily available. Supplies for cleaning and bandaging the scrapes were footsteps away.  An air cast (not even heard of in Haiti) was in stock and easily applied.  X-ray results and instructions for the next couple of days were given after a short waiting period.  Even information about a domestic violence and suicide hotline were given, along with an application form if financial assistance was needed.  None of this is available in Haiti! Again, a wheelchair escorted me right to where friends were waiting with their van to take me home.  Other friends were gathering up crutches and a walker for me at their home.  In a matter of a few short hours, I went from the fall in the parking lot to my place of recovery in the recliner awaiting me in my living room.  I wish the same for all injured or sick people all over the world! God was really watching out for me when my fall occurred in the USA, rather than in Haiti!  I HAVE BEEN BLESSED!  In more ways than I know, I HAVE BEEN BLESSED!

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic                       Until next time. God willing …………

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page