Sara Moore

Observing my first hysterectomy, photo by Ben Brake

(Best) Friends of Haiti

The past two days I (very randomly) found myself with a non-profit called Friends of Haiti. Friends of Haiti, based out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and comes to Haiti four times a year on week-long surgical and medical trips. The group consisted of 17 people on the recent surgical trip, compromised of surgeons, PAs, anesthesiologists, and nurses (and one improvised chef) from Green Bay, Washington state, and Philadelphia. Many of the volunteers had never met before but they seemed to assemble a strong and efficient team in a matter of days. All of the volunteers took off vacation time from their usual work to come to Haiti for a week and work what seemed like 14 hour days or longer to conduct dozens of free surgeries.

During my time with Friends of Haiti at the health clinic I was allowed in the operating rooms to watch a few abdominal hysterectomies, a hemorrhoid removal, a hernia removal, and an amputated finger repair. I also observed a doctor draining a thyroid cyst and I helped another doctor conduct breast and abdominal exams. The sad part was many of these surgeries would rarely occur in a more developed country due to easier access to medical treatment. For example, one hysterectomy took out a uterus about the size of a basketball filled with uterine fibroids. This would never happen in the United States as early detection of uterine fibroids would lead to a laparoscopic hysterectomy. However, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, which limits people's access to health care. I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to grow up with easy and affordable access to health care, which I always thought of as a right, not a privilege. These Friends of Haiti volunteers must have realized their privilege and, may I quote Paul Farmer (one of the greatest advocates of better healthcare in Haiti),  "that privilege comes with obligations to others and especially to the poor."

Now, you all must be asking, Doesn't Sara care about trees, since when is she joining the league of saintly healthcare volunteers? Well, the sad truth is: I'm not, despite my surprising ability not to barf up my lunch after smelling my first whiff of burning flesh. However, oftentimes  health and environmental problems are inextricably related and to understand one problem, we must concurrently look to the other.

Regardless of my lack of medical experience, one of the lead doctors, Dr. Jack acted as though I was an intelligent and respected colleague, and not a subordinate. This treatment was extremely refreshing for two reasons. One, multiple doctors consulted on about my IBS caused me more angst than I had before visiting them, leading me to lose hope in modern doctors altogether. And two, oftentimes being disciplined by teachers in high school for pointing out their inconsistencies led me to be weary of my superiors who may be taking advantage of their power.

Anyway, let me stop now before I continue on a tangent about the inequalities of the world's healthcare or even how frustrating it was to be penalized in high school for questioning my teachers (at least I had an opportunity to go to school, right?). But rather, end on a recommendation to anyone with experience in healthcare to volunteer with Friends of Haiti, as I was warmly welcomed into this amazing group that is fighting back against the unjust system of global healthcare.