“Being in Haiti makes you incredibly…”

VULNERABLE. “Being in Haiti makes you incredibly vulnerable.”

I was talking with a guest a few weeks ago (I’ll go ahead and call him a friend since we bonded over the course of his week-long stay). We were talking about an American friend of mine who lives just a few minutes away from the House. She was having a medical issue (and still is–please pray for her!) and eventually went to Miami for a diagnosis and treatment. Bob said, “being in Haiti makes you incredibly vulnerable.” He wasn’t just meaning me, Abigail Rhoades Hogan, or any American, but just people in general, locals and foreigners included. He wasn’t talking only about the diseases that are more prevalent here than in the States (read: typhoid, Zika, etc) or the lack of clean water or anything like that. This was leading to a conversation about how incredibly vulnerable people are here and in other parts of the world. If you’re in Haiti, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, or Liberia and you come down with an illness, you’re more than likely going to have a difficult time receiving treatment–open hours, distances, transportation, weather, costs, and such will all factor into this. But if you’re in the States, England, Paris, or Italy, you can probably catch a taxi, drive, or even walk to a hospital, doctor, or even a 24-hour clinic at a pharmacy or immediate care center. Never mind the fact that, while there are some pretty crazy injuries in the States and everywhere else (I refer you to the thousands of videos on YouTube and AFV), people in developing countries often have other kinds of injuries also–what I’ve seen a lot of are neck injuries. These people (men and women, but I’ve seen mostly women) carry baskets, water, and bags of rice on their heads. One of the guys here told me some of the bags of rice can weight like forty pounds. Imagine what forty pounds of strain on your neck would do. OW. When I followed around a volunteering American doctor for a day at Klinik Vizitasyon in Ti Riv, he said neck-related injuries were what he saw the most.

On a regular basis I hear guests telling about how they were in awe and inspired by the strength of the patients and people they encountered. When I came down in 2013 with a dental group, I’ll never forget how so many of the patients wanted extractions performed because of the intense pain. Our dentist didn’t extract all of the ones they wanted out, but I remember us sitting back at the end of the first day and saying, “How do they do that? Their mouths are full of rotted teeth and they don’t cry or anything. They just want to be done.” But in the States, the last thing we would ever want is to have our teeth pulled! We’d see the dentist for a toothache, but these people only see dentists if there happens to be a group of volunteers in the area, and for the most part, with major oral health problems. To say they’re strong is a massive understatement.

Then you get to the emotional vulnerability–the kind that pops into my head when I hear the word “vulnerable.” I think of people crying after pouring their hearts and souls out. But that’s for another day.


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