wanted a patient to have medicine, they had to write the patient a prescription, and either the patient or a family member would have to take it to a pharmacy across the street and return with the medicine to the hospital. At that point the patients were responsible for taking it themselves. Food and nursing care were provided by families. Those patients without families depended on passersby or fellow patients.
Flies were everywhere in the surgical ward, where burn victims were recuperating. Burns are common in Haiti, where most people cook over open fires. Children frequently burn themselves when they pull over pots of food suspended over the fires by tripods. The burn victims avoided the flies by sleeping under mosquito netting. There were probably six or seven burn victims there that day, their dark uninjured skin in sharp contrast to the pink, yellow, and mottled burned tissue. Flies buzzed around a container filled with antiseptic solution. Jerry described how, without a sterilizer, unsterile gauze pads were dipped into the antiseptic solution to pack the wounds of surgical patients. Eighty percent of the emergency surgical patients developed sepsis, and 60 percent died. Many patients seemed to be there because they had no place else to go. Their doctors could figure out they had terrible maladies but lacked medicines to treat them. One woman with a tumor growing out of her skull had been waiting five months for surgery. James, a young boy with a beautiful smile, skated down the corridor on tin cans strapped to his knees. His legs were permanently folded at the knees by scarring that had developed after severe burns. He had been waiting two years for surgery, living at the hospital the entire time. There were some patients who were young but gaunt. These patients must have AIDS, I thought to myself. No one mentioned them or their problems, however. In fact, our Haitian hosts seemed to ignore them.
Our next stop was an orphanage in a place called Post Cazeau, a complex of newer buildings on a large plot of land, near the airport. We could see planes taking off and landing just beyond the treetops. Marlon and Jerry said they would like to build a new hospital in a