It has long been a goal of NOVA to break out of our central clinic in Cavaillon and to take medical teams to more remote villages in the surrounding areas to try to help people who are sick and cannot make it to the town to come to our clinic. It would seem like a simple task: take a couple of doctors, a nurse, some translators and a bin of medicine and go off on a dirt road to outlying communities for a day. We have tried in the past, but without much success. One year a swollen river blocked our teams access to a community that was waiting for us. Another year the crowds gathered at a mountain communities chapel overwhelmed the team who couldn’t seem to get the day organized. For one reason or another our mobile clinics just failed to launch… until this year.
On Friday, February 1st, at the request of the pastor of the Catholic church in Cavaillon, NOVA sent a mobile clinic to the Flamand. Flamand is a remote village on an absolutely stunning inlet on the southern coast of Haiti. But the road to Flammand is incredibly difficult. It is nearly an hour drive along a very narrow, bumpy, dirt road along fields and rice paddies. Once you’re on the road to Flammand, you pass more people on donkeys than you do jeeps. The road is that rough.
The people of Flammand are so remove that they have no utilities: there is no electricity and no running water. This is not unusual at all for villages in the provinces of Haiti. Flammand is basically a community of people living in a fishing village probably much as they would have centuries ago. Other than the church and the small school in the center of the village, there is nothing else there but small houses.
Our team had a great day. Two doctors, two translators, a nurse and two volunteers climbed into our jeep early on Friday to go to the main clinic ahead of the rest of the team. We packed a 25 gallon tupperware bin with medicines and supplies, grabbed a 5 gallon jug of water for us, some packed some snacks for lunch and headed out. We were told the road was tough but beautiful, but we were unprepared for how true that is. It is a very difficult ride, long ride from the highway to Flammand. We joked in the jeep that we should all have tee shirts reading “I survived the road to Flammand.” And it was, indeed, stunningly beautiful. The road to Flammand is one of those places in Haiti that give a different perspective on this troubled, yet gorgeous island nation in the center of the Caribbean.
When we arrived at the church to set up in a little clinic built by the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington, VA. The clinic is staffed a few days per week by two nurses who provide vaccines to children, but there are no doctors there. The people were waiting for us outside. After doing this for 11 years, Joe Nuzzi and Mary Dalton quickly got the clinic organized, while Jocelyne Lamour began signing patients in and the doctors set up examining rooms. In less than 15 minutes we were ready to go.
We had expected to see patients for a half of a day, but because of the numbers of people we had to stay all day. Dr. Chris Cavagnaro and Dr. Josh Schiller saw about 75 patients that day, and Mary Dalton filled all of their prescriptions. It was an amazing day and we were very happy to finally launch our first successful mobile clinic. There will definitely be more to come.
Here are some photos of the day, including two patients, a husband and wife, who live on the other side of the bay and who commuted to the clinic in their canoe.