Throwing rocks, and dance therapy

Today was a day of highs and lows.  The biggest low was definitely this morning – we heard a commotion and learned that people were throwing rocks because a student had just been brought to the hospital – she was hit by a car as she was taking a moto (motorcycle taxi) to school.  This would have been very sad under any circumstance, but the reason for the rock throwing was that she had been hit by a MINUSTAH (UN) truck.  After bringing cholera to Haiti, raping a boy and leaking video of it (posted online by ABC news last year), and allegedly committing other various crimes against Haitians, one might say the UN has really worn out its welcome here.  So hitting and killing a child with one of their (usually well-armed) vehicles was a particularly inflammatory sort of accident for them to have.  

I ran into a fellow “blan” who works at a local orphanage later this morning.  We have about six of his kids at our hospital right now with what looks like a mild case of cholera that had spread through their orphanage.  He looked a bit unsettled – apparently he’d been on a taptap* – a Haitian taxi, really a pickup truck with space for people to sit in the back – this morning around the time of the accident, and people had stopped his taptap twice and tried to get him out of the vehicle so they could throw rocks (or worse) at him.  Both times he was able to explain that he had no ties to MINUSTAH, and was allowed to pass, but it was worrisome to hear nonetheless.  By this afternoon everything had settled down and he felt safe enough to travel home with one of our patients who has recovered.  I myself felt safe the whole time – our hospital has a cadre of guards at the main entrance, as well as a guard at the entrance to the pediatrics unit.  I know most of them by name, have treated some of their kids, and know that they keep a very close watch on things.  They can (and occasionally do) lock up the pediatric ward as necessary. By the time I finished work this evening there were a few rocks piled in the road leading to the local UN base (blocking the road seems to be a common form of Haitian protest) but otherwise no sign of any of the protests/rock-throwing from earlier in the day.  

So that was an unsettling way to start the day.  This afternoon’s levity helped balance things out.  We have a patient with abdominal tuberculosis; she has been bed-ridden for at least a month, and as she recovers I am trying to encourage her to get up and walk more. Her mother is afraid she is too weak to get up, so she hasn’t been pushing her to try.  This afternoon I went and found her in her bed, got her up and walked her outside – she has had some delirium over the past few weeks and I hoped that getting outside might help to orient her better.  She tolerated the walk very well, so when we got back to the room I jokingly asked her if she wanted to dance.  She just looked at me.  I pulled up some Haitian music on my phone and began to dance.  I took her hands and encouraged her to dance with me.  Her mom laughed and encouraged her, and soon the two of us were dancing together in the middle of a crowded room of pediatrics patients.  We must have been quite a spectacle – my sickly-thin somewhat delirious patient and I – dancing ungracefully.  I announced that we were having a party and invited others to join in; none of them did but many were pleased to watch.  My resident was shocked that I had a song from a popular Haitian band on my phone, though he watched my dancing with a look that I have seen before – it was not unlike the one that teenagers give their parents when they do something embarrassing in public.   I spun my spindly dance partner around once, and then she had me do it a second, third, fourth time before grabbing my phone and embarking on a parade around the room with it, enjoying the music all for herself.  

Like Charlie’s grandfather, my young patient’s energy for dancing only lasted a few minutes – not entirely surprising since it was her first time out of bed in quite some time – but when I asked her if we should dance again tomorrow she answered in a quiet voice “I would like to dance again.”  I don’t care if the rest of the ward thinks I’m crazy for doing so – I do believe I’ve got a date for another dance party tomorrow, even if it’s just the two of us.  

*Don’t worry Mom and Dad, we are not allowed to take taptaps.  Our drivers are very safety-conscious at all times.  

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  1. Cathy Gonzalez

     /  January 25, 2013

    Wow……it does sound like quite the day. Needless to say, we are happy that you are not taking any taptaps. Stick with the drivers you know. Happy to hear that you had the girl up & dancing around. You have quite a gift for connecting with the kids there. Hope that you will have some down time this weekend to take some time for yourself. And maybe do some laundry too….;–) Love, Mom

    • I am working this weekend but hope to make a trip to the beach as well. Will try to consider getting some laundry done as well – thanks for the advice!! 😛

  2. Fine, Bryan R, MD

     /  January 29, 2013

    You get responses at this email?

    Not sure how I got on your mailing list, but enjoying it. Coming down to Haiti chaperoning a group of medical students. March.

    You’re doing good things.


    **** Bryan R. Fine, MD, MPH Director, Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk, Virginia

    • Thanks Bryan! Glad to hear you are enjoying the blog. I imagine you may have come to find it through Lisbet, a friend of mine. Let me know when you’ll be in town! It would be nice to connect if we are able.


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