Ed note: Inna Piskorska is a third year dental student at the UWSoD, currently in Haiti with a group of dentists and students. The group is hosted by Medical Relief International, an organization formed by WSDA member Dr. Mike Karr. Piskorska approached the WSDA News about a story of her travels and experiences while in Haiti, and we asked her to start by blogging about her experiences while she was there. This is the first of her reports.
We had a long, but productive first day — we woke at 6 am, had breakfast and left for our destination an hour away. There, we set up in the church — three chairs headed up by operators: Dr. Mark Walker and student doctors Kjersten Otterholt, and myself. The weather in Haiti is hot and humid, and the loss of fluids exhausts us quickly. Hydration is very important here, and we have to be reminded to take a break for water/rest/lunch because most of the time we get caught up in our work.
Once at the church, people started to line up. Thankfully, we had people helping us with translation and taking symptoms of the patients, though communication was possible even without translators, simply through gestures. We had patients back to back from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m — once one person left, another was seated — even before the tray was cleared. Throughout the day we saw 31 patients, both children and adults, one more than our goal for the day!
The Haitian people are very friendly and welcoming — the children especially. They like having their pictures taken with us, the attention we show them, and of course, the candies we hand out. The word on the street spread very fast, and people know that we are the dental team. They stop us on the street to ask our names and find out where we are from. For some, it was their first time to see a dentist, for others it was first time they had anesthetic and a pain-free experience. One patient commented that this ‘was good medicine’ because he felt no pain — we were removing root tips left by another dentist.
Our teammates were indispensable — Pastor Bruce and Paul both translated and were dental assistants. Mike Thomson worked with me throughout the day, fetching supplies, and providing excellent dental assisting. John was a life-saver, running the sterilization area, keeping our instruments clean. Finally, Pastor Z’s wife helped with checking patients in and dental assisting. Everyone worked together to make a strong, cooperative team. By 4:00 p.m. all the patients wanting to be seen had been treated, and the children watched as we packed up our units and finished cleaning. We were tired, but happy that we were able to help so many people.