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  • February 4, 2010
  • Last Full Day of Operating

  • Dr. Mehta describes the Penn team's last full day operating on patients in Haiti, reports eagerness to come home, and reflects on continuing to help Haiti in the future – and on the country's beauty.

Dramatic Changes in Case Load

patient ward

Photo by Samir Mehta

Our last full day of operating in Cange. The case load has dramatically changed since our first day.  The cases have transitioned to wound care, skin grafts, and delayed fixation or revision fixation. Many of the things that Derek and I need to do we can’t here for a variety of reasons including lack of technology and sterility.

Eager to Go Home

We are anxious to complete the day of cases so that we can start to pack and decompress a bit.  I think everybody is anxious to head home and as things wind down, the enthusiasm increases to go home.

Penn team on a hike

Photo by Samir Mehta

I haven’t watched television or read a newspaper in two weeks. I really have very little idea of what is going on the world. My updates of the States consist of weather information from Mike regarding this weekend in Philadelphia and whether or not the city (and the airport) will be under a foot of snow.  I think about how great it would be to fly to Baltimore and take the Amtrak from there to Philadelphia. It doesn’t matter how we get home, but it’s time.

Out for a Hike, Planning for Next Time

The schedule is done by 230 PM. We go to the Friendship House to grab some lunch.  We decide to go for a hike as we have already completed Wound Rounds as well.  We come to a football (soccer) field on a plateau with a steep drop on three of four sides.  We’ve watched the Haitian kids play football on this field after school lets out, chasing down the ball after it goes off the cliffs. The ball they play with deflates every so often and so the kids stop to pump it up. The next time I come (and there will be a next time) I plan to bring lots of soccer balls, basketballs, and candy. 

burned fieldPenn team relaxes after an imagined brush with danger

Photos by Samir Mehta

We follow the “Voodoo Trail” along for a while when we come to barbed wire and a door that is put together with a pair of soles from shoes acting as hinges. The ground is charred.  We’ve learned that the fires at night, of which there have been many, are done to clear the land for agriculture. The PIH Agriculture arm has been trying to convince the country that burning land to clear it is not healthy for agriculture. It could be that or kids burning fires for fun. However, where we are on this hike, it is clear this must have been a controlled fire because it ends right where this barbed wire / wooden fence is.

All of a sudden we hear sounds and think we see people. Since we are unaccompanied, we turn and walk in the opposite direction – briskly.  It doesn’t seem like anyone is behind us so we slow our pace. I turn around as I am in the back and I see a person moving through the brush.  We start to run – in some ways in a bit of a panic – from the “people” behind us. We run up the steep incline that we came down.  As we reach the top, we are all drenched in sweat and short of breath. We look down the face of the plateau that we just climbed and see an old man with his donkey walking along a path in the valley. Very good – we just ran for our life from that. If nothing else, it was a good workout.

A Beautiful Place, A Sad Goodbye

The Central Plateau, where Cange is located, is beautiful. The vegetation is lush. The night sky is spectacular  Nature is untouched. Birds during the day are replaced by bats that flutter through the night sky.

We host a small party for the staff that has been so amazing to us.  Derek and I go to the local bar to purchase some libations. We bring them back to the house, where everyone meets to send us off.  We are sad to say our goodbyes to this group who has opened themselves up and trusted us in so many ways.


This report was written by Samir Mehta, MD, during his participation in Haitian relief efforts through Penn Medicine in coordination with Partners in Health.


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