in Zetoit, the furthermost village we visited. The family insisted I see her, claiming she was gravely ill. I entered a small, two-room house with a dirt floor, one door, and no windows. My patient was sitting on the floor in a brown dress, the color of the floor. The dim light made it difficult to see her, except for her eyes and her smile. Although her family referred to her as a child, she was obviously a mature woman. She was retarded, with a small head, and both legs paralyzed. Her family obviously took good care of her. She was clean and well nourished. Why have they asked me to see her? I thought to myself. She’s had this problem from birth. They must think I have magical powers, that I can just lay my hands on her head and restore her to health, that I might be more powerful than a bokar.
“Nou pa kapab fè plis. Bon kouraj” (“We can’t do any better than you. Take heart”), I told her family members, who were surrounding me and expecting a miracle I’m sure.
As is their custom, everyone thanked us, whether we helped or not. They fed us and sheltered us in their homes. They gathered at the dock to wave goodbye and sang to us as we departed. And I thanked them in return, though I’m not sure they understood why, as we began our long journey back to Miami. As gratifying as the trip was, it was also troubling. On the one hand, it was a return to the pure joy of being a doctor, unburdened by the bureaucracy and liability and insurance issues that were stultifying my practice in Miami. But I was frustrated by my limited fluency in Creole and by my inability to practice without the bare essentials of medical technology taken for granted at home. And Medishare needed a home of its own, serving a place that no one else was serving, that no one else wanted.