Alison Thompson, author THE THIRD WAVE, shares a letter she wrote to her parents while volunteering in Haiti during the cholera epidemic.November 11, 2010
Dear Mum and Dad,
I am lying in my tent in Haiti, typing on my iPhone under a flashlight. A full moon is leaking in through my window and 47 ½ palm trees are casting Halloween shadows on my roof. Mutant dinosaur mosquitoes buzz in my ears in search of a landing zone, and the cock-a-doodle-doo rooster's body clock is out of whack.
How can I tell you about the things I have seen without making you cry into your cereal? I'll spare you the details of babies dying in their own vomit, but I will tell you that after our first night at St. Mark's hospital our medical team broke down and cried, helpless at not being able to save everyone. Out here you are only as good as your last prayer, and God's inbox is backed up.
On my first night in the ER I walked the ward alone checking on IVs while sick people called out in Creole. I don't have a clue what they were saying but I do know they were dying, and I could smell it in the air. Je t'aime was the only French word I knew, and a few weak smiles leaked out. That night I felt like an alien on Planet Cholera. While checking out the morgue I ran into Loune from Partners in Health as she was unloading heavy boxes of supplies from a truck. I felt a swell inside me as I watched her slave away in the dark. She's a quiet hero of the cholera outbreak and deserves a trip to Disneyland. There are many quiet heroes here mopping floors and cleaning contaminated fluids for 30 hours straight.
The good news is that today, after visiting hospitals and clinics in St. Nicolas, St. Marc, Bocozelle, Pierre Payen, Villard, and l'Artibonite valley (where the cholera started), the cholera is in a lull and has leveled off, and patient numbers have dropped. We will continue to monitor the situation and are working with pastors and leaders to educate villagers on cholera. Ted Steinhauer from Medical Teams International (who started the Quisqueya operation after the quake) is leading good teams and carefully studying the stats.
Haiti is a land of rumors and we need focused communications directly from the source. I have seen all these briefs and stats with my own blue eyes. I'm on my 24th Clif Bar and am craving seared tuna sushi with jalapeño from Nobu.
For more dispatches from Alison Thompson, follow her twitter feed at http://twitter.com/lightxxx