A Physician’s Diary from Haiti


Dr. Mavis Jaworski, a family physician from Beverly, was one of many Massachusetts physicians who went to Haiti to help in the earthquake relief effort. Here are her observations from field, sent to us on Jan. 27.

I am currently in Haiti. Physicians need more assistance with organized flights to and from Haiti, ground travel coordination and experienced drivers; maps of Haiti with locations of hospitals and contacts; Creole lessons on medical issues; paper and plastic products for eating, and cleanup.

A lot of time is being wasted trying to get to Haiti then trying to locate your destination and getting there, and then having to spend too much time on standby for the return because all flights are full; I have to go two days earlier so that I do not miss my flight from Florida to Boston.

Can’t sleep. The penthouse is hot. Neighbors are coming and going. Tomorrow night we may move up to the next roof which has no walls. Our current home has walls which block breezes.

Sesame Street Ernie hangs from our tent. My tent mate saw it and said “This establishes ownership.” I chuckled to myself. He has been up practicing Creole after trying it in vain with a person, only to find out that the woman spoke English.

What is needed? Organization. So many various teams are coming and going. We need to coordinate ER. Now I go back to penthouse. And the fragrance of DEET.

One doctor is elated to be going home after six days; another is sad to be leaving after six days. Dedicated teams, all named by state or country. Some teams only want to do certain things. Coordination of travel and ER, OR is much needed.

Things one should bring to Haiti:  DEET, tent, bedding for a hot climate, lightweight scrubs, English/Creole translation book, global phone, camera, journal materials so you never forget, disinfectant cloths, comfy shoes to work all day, easy-to-eat protein (nuts), a cup to make coffee or tea in, Melatonin (after what you see it is tricky to sleep, but you must).

More: Sticky labels for your personal items, and for attaching to a patient bed (waiting for surgery, waiting for x-ray, waiting for medication, etc.) to avoid redundant work ups by different docs; back-up eyeglasses; toothbrush, toothpaste, gargle.

Is there an inexpensive MP3 player that can be loaded with Haitian music and given to Haitians? They are at a loss as what to do, they wait and wait. They need music. They need something to write or draw with. We need melatonin for them. We need to help them calm their nerves. We need to provide human touch. The eyes are vacant. They are stunned. It is sad.

We need dry erase white boards with markers. We need a large and small bulletin boards with pins. Get office supply places to donate. Get Crayola to donate crayons and paper for children to play with.

It would be helpful to have identification bracelets or necklaces with cards of information attached for patients (to write brief history on them, e.g., previous medical visits, prescriptions) Bill Gates help us coordinate set up of efficiency in places.

We need communication devices for teams. Nextel?

Mavis Jaworski

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