Can-do Compassion in Haiti (2008)

Poor child

Emory medical students learn to move easily among the most sophisticated technology and testing.

Even some of their earliest exposures to patients are simulations with robots or actors. But what Robbie Paulsen remembers most is the day she and other classmates in the Emory Medishare project pulled a child back from death using the simplest medical resources. The Emory students carry such supplies with them on a twice-annual trip to run mobile medical and surgical clinics in rural areas in Haiti.

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Can-Do Compassion in Haiti

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In last November's trip, almost 30 Emory students and several faculty joined Project Medishare's health care team in a small town named Casse. There, typical families live in one room, with a thatched roof and dirt floor, and get water from contaminated lakes. The closest doctor's office is a half day’s walk, if the roads are not flooded.

Many of the 1,000 people the team treated over the week in Casse had never before seen a health care provider. One day, a father wordlessly presented the team with his baby boy, limp, unresponsive, and breathing shallowly. The child was so dehydrated from diarrhea that even the experienced doctors could not feel a pulse. Emory medical student Heidi Reich found a nasogastric tube in one of the suitcases the students had hauled with them, while Mike Mina, with only one year of medical school, tracked down a roll of duct tape. The team mixed a package of oral rehydation solution with water, placed a tube down the unresisting child's nose, and cheered as the youngster quickly came back to life. His father returned the following day to say thank you.

Helping in Haiti: Typical families live in one room with a dirt floor and get water from contaminated lakes. The closest doctor is a half day's walk.

After returning to Atlanta, the students were inspired to find ways to continue to help provide care in rural Haiti, even when they couldn’t be there themselves. So Project Casse was born, with the goal of obtaining funding for a permanent medical and maternity clinic in the remote region.

The project is coordinated by the Emory Medishare students and their colleagues at Morehouse School of Medicine. Plans include providing two motorcycles to allow Project Medishare's Haiti-based health agents to get to the outlying villages more often, renovate the existing dispensary, and support ongoing operational costs. This organizing and fund-raising work is a lot to take on for busy medical students, but it fits right in with why they came to Emory and the kind of can-do compassion they are learning here.