Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dr's Report

A visit to a Haitian Doctor’s office is scary, at first glance.

His medical practice is also his home.

I went to a man’s house who I had never met. I sat in his living room/waiting area for a little while, after meeting the Doctor’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. I’m not sure why.) As the Doctor wrote on a notepad across his metal school desk (reminiscent of an elementary school teacher’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 wasn’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: “Don’t worry, I have one of those from America, too.�

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 “Come on, I can’t write in Chinese�. After I filled out my own paperwork, he began the exam. In Haiti, at least in this Doctor’s office, the examination was much more thorough than the usual US visit. Personally, I’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. I’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 can’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 legs…apparently I wasn’t judged dangerous enough to warrant their use. (Everything there looked like it came from a science-fiction movie or a Goodwill store) I don’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 “make pee�. 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 Doctor’s office in the States, the process of giving a urine sample is all very sterile and proper and official? Well, in Haiti, it’s pretty much just peeing into some Tupperware in a guy’s bathroom and then handing him the cup when you’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 – lab work and all. The practice of medicine in Haiti started looking a lot better. Hopefully the HMO’s aren’t on their way down to mess that up. I’ve heard you can get a root canal here for less than a hundred bucks. I bet it hurts a lot more, though.

You’ve all heard the diagnosis by now. I’m feeling better and have more energy, and I’m almost done with the medicine. This must have been a mild case of Malaria, because it really hasn’t been all that bad. It is a little tough to feel productive while sleeping thirteen hours a day, however. The biggest problem I’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 I’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.