Wednesday, May 10, 2006
A visit to a Haitian Doctorâ€™s office is scary, at first glance.
His medical practice is also his home.
I went to a manâ€™s house who I had never met. I sat in his living room/waiting area for a little while, after meeting the Doctorâ€™s wife/nurse/lab technician, who was working in the laboratory/sunroom. He invited me into the examination room, which seemed a lot like a spare bedroom, except for the exam table and a few pharmaceutical posters and sample advertisements. (It amused me to see that there must be pharmaceutical sales reps in the third-world. Iâ€™m not sure why.) As the Doctor wrote on a notepad across his metal school desk (reminiscent of an elementary school teacherâ€™s desk, circa 1985), I glanced around the room. He caught me looking at his framed degree of medicine hanging on the wall. It was issued by some department of the Haitian government in 1969. I wasnâ€™t really concerned about that, as he came highly recommended by a friend, but I was confused about the process of becoming a doctor in Haiti. Dr. Sajou said: â€œDonâ€™t worry, I have one of those from America, too.â€�
He had a great sense of humor and spoke English fairly well, so that made me a little bit more comfortable. He asked me my name so he could start my papers. After I told him, he passed the clipboard and pen over to me and said â€œCome on, I canâ€™t write in Chineseâ€�. After I filled out my own paperwork, he began the exam. In Haiti, at least in this Doctorâ€™s office, the examination was much more thorough than the usual US visit. Personally, Iâ€™ve always felt like the looking-in-the-ears-and-eyes-and-the-deep-breathing-with-the-stethoscope-and-the-pressing-of-the-neck-glands routine is usually rushed and not very influential in the final outcome of a normal Doctor visit in the States. (No offense to my friends in the medical community. :) But with this guy, if I had something wrong with me, he was going to find it before I ever left that table. The next fifteen minutes of probing and prodding were a little uncomfortable, but nothing if not thorough. Iâ€™m pretty sure he manipulated every internal organ accessible from the front and back of my torso. I was kept amused by the fact that the head of his stethoscope kept falling off, and was repaired with scotch-tape in the end.
I guess you canâ€™t diagnose malaria by beating someone up on an exam table, so next we entered the lab. I sat in a chair that had restraining straps for the arms and legsâ€¦apparently I wasnâ€™t judged dangerous enough to warrant their use. (Everything there looked like it came from a science-fiction movie or a Goodwill store) I donâ€™t usually like needles and having blood drawn as a general rule. I was a bit concerned about this next step, especially considering my surroundings. I was glad to see, however, that it was new needle fresh out of sterile packaging and not the needle out of the garbage can I had imagined. I managed to pull through without the arm restraints, and then Dr. Sajou handed me a small cup and said â€œmake peeâ€�. I tried not to smile, and then looked around for an appropriate place to do so. He motioned to a door and I entered the hall bathroom. You know how in a Doctorâ€™s office in the States, the process of giving a urine sample is all very sterile and proper and official? Well, in Haiti, itâ€™s pretty much just peeing into some Tupperware in a guyâ€™s bathroom and then handing him the cup when youâ€™re done. No gloves, no lids, no labels, no secret little doors, no good.
Once all of the fluids had been collected for analysis on their porch, I paid the good Doctor and his wife/nurse/lab tech the equivalent of thirty-six U.S. Dollars. That was for everything â€“ lab work and all. The practice of medicine in Haiti started looking a lot better. Hopefully the HMOâ€™s arenâ€™t on their way down to mess that up. Iâ€™ve heard you can get a root canal here for less than a hundred bucks. I bet it hurts a lot more, though.
Youâ€™ve all heard the diagnosis by now. Iâ€™m feeling better and have more energy, and Iâ€™m almost done with the medicine. This must have been a mild case of Malaria, because it really hasnâ€™t been all that bad. It is a little tough to feel productive while sleeping thirteen hours a day, however. The biggest problem Iâ€™ve had is either Malaria or sleep-induced stupidity, as indicated by locking my keys in the truck twice in one week. Tara was kind and only mentioned the one time. (Thanks honey.) But I have to admit Iâ€™ve done it two times, in the same truck, in six days. If you have a Mitsubishi Canter and you need the lock picked, give me a call, I am now an expert.