Benezet's dead

Benezet was brought in by wheelbarrow. I guess it took awhile.

The Istat is a handheld device that measures electrolytes. It is notoriously finicky- needs to be refrigerated, but not too cold, or it jams up, and then humidity is a problem. Well, today it worked, and his Sodium was 165, about as high as I’ve seen. He looked dead from the get go, and then he was, before we got an IV going, or an NG, or even a first name. Amazingly, my first cholera fatality down here. I wish he gave me a better shot, but it was inevitable.

After the sweaty shift, there’s a mass at 7, and I go, mostly to hear the cacaphony of language. They’ll sing in Latin, English, Kreyol, French and Spanish, and it always begins just as the UN camp across the way- they’re from Bangla Desh- calls muezzin. That’s pretty discordant, and I’m not sure if we infidels can count Arabic.

But there is Benezet on the floor of the chapel, an embroidered shroud over his body bag. There’s a dead lady adjacent. I know her story, but she wasn’t my patient- an OB complication, now looking diminished, a young father tonight trying to cobble something together, his gratitude over the new baby tempered by reality’s grim bite.

Night falls fast nearer the equator, and the chapel is dark, candles guttering in the still stiff wind. There’s a little incense and Benezet’s shroud shudders a good bit in the breeze, the candle at his feet magnifies the movement in swirling shadow.

Rick Freschette, the carpenter pediatrician, wears a white cassock, a priest tonight, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary time, and he sends them off praying for dignity and comfort in their new estate. The six living- we kneel, we all touch them, say a prayer.

He doesn’t dress it up much- this comes up a lot. He mentions the laying aside of life’s burdens, shaking off this mortal coil. It sounds peaceful. The shadows do their part, and Wynn Wylant breaks into a Protestant hymn, set to Beethoven’s 9th triumphal chorus, but he sings it like a plaintive West Virginian mountain crooner. You’d hardly recognize it if you didn’t know it already, and instead of the joyful finale, the tune drifts away, fades down to nothing.

Things are closer to the heart here. You lose them, say a prayer, and bury them that day, but you don’t lose sight of them.

We could be Orthodox Jews.

Simone Galfar made it, Junior too.

They’ll be Benezet’s minion.

It is always great to hear your accounts from Haiti. All of my “problems” simply disappear after readin them. These people in Haiti are lucky to have you.

Ok already.

When is the book coming out

Yeah, it sure helps put things in perspective!


Hectaire. His name is Hectaire.

Or was.

He was 55, not young, not quite ancient, and apparently had a full schedule for the day he died, so the diarrhea was just an impediment, another obstacle to get around.

Certainly he’d had others, in a life as full as any, and no reason to think this was going to be more than the typical pain in the ass he’d dealt with before, various pains in the ass. But it didn’t stop- got worse, and soon he was thirsty, lightheaded. He was a man in full, though, not one to let an incommodious situation hold up the necessary. He worked on a bit. His stomach cramped. He vomited once, and then again, realized he might really be sick. Time to get off this mountain, better see about this.

And so the slow treck over uneven ground commenced, off his own played out share, and on to others’ stony soil, punctuated pretty regularly with uncontrollable diarrhea, wishing for water despite the cramps. By now he knew his fate.

Down the mountain he passed others, with their knowing looks- they turned away. Nobody healthy walks off the mountain. A couple tap taps slowed, then sped up, the crowd filling out in the back, trying to sit bigger.

Finally, his skin etched across his face, eyes sunk, he collapsed near a shop wallah, bad for business.

The shopkeeper hired a boy to carry the man in his wheelbarrow, and in another hour or so, he reached St Luc’s, the boy sweaty and scared. Wheeled straight through the gate and past triage, where they transferred him to a handheld stretcher, poured him in, really, as the boy scoured the wheelbarrow with chlorox. There we met him, or saw him anyway, clamped down, past pressures, past caring, slimed and clammy, pulseless, eyes clouded, but breathing. The Istat was not useful, but it was handy, and I couldn’t stick him- just nothing. Hustling now, hunting for an interosseous line, gathering the NG tube and goop, but he was dead, just like that. The fever of life was cooling already, the bustle of the day laid aside, now and subsequently, no family near, no inconvenient mourners smashing themselves about, bellowing. Lucky us.

There was a funeral mass sufficient to the day, and he went into the fridge with only the last name.

And so in the grand tradition, “I stand on the ground he stood, and take up his load”, or at least tell his story.

Three days in the fridge- was it Lazarus?- but no redemption here. His two sons came to pick him up, the wife stayed home.

He was a farmer, grew mamba and some coffee up in the hills near Kenskoff, but not all that much of either, from the look of him and his.

With flatter affects than I expected, they took him home in a tap tap, a lesser threat dead than alive, and that was that.

Hectaire, they said, and not much more.

It’s raining hard again, so a light week will end rough, the reeking roadside gutters frothing foul and brown.

Going back to that epic photo essay last November, with the bodies piled like cordwood, I assumed some were patients you had treated or at least seen. If this was your first, then your batting average is great. If I get cholera in Haiti, I’ll still ask for you.

How was the flight down? Still as beautiful as ever until Haiti?


Rough over Andros.

I usually just go VFR via Ft Pierce, but TS made me divert to Tamiami, where Dennis did not come out to meet me, and which had pretty low ceilings, so I filed, and then ATC was really busy.

Andros had some green stuff on XM, no yellow, no red, and no strikes or cells, so I didn’t deviate as much as I will next time, and I was soon enough slammed into the ceiling, picking up my headset, stuff flying around the cabin, couldn’t hold altitude, and attitude wasn’t so pretty, either. Yikes. Lost my mechanical fuel guage in all the commotion, which made the totalizer feel helpless. It said it had no idea how much fuel I had, just read zero, not very reassuring. I had just filled it myself, and the tanks still showed accurately, but it gave me something to think about for the rest of the ride, while they shuffled me around the A routes. I’d planned to land with 24 gal or so, it wound up 19. Not dangerous, OK, but that’s alot of water. Had to thank Gordon again for making me so anal about recording gas and tanks, but had to pick those papers off the floor, too. Also, because I went IFR, they were expecting me in customs, knew my point of origin, most unfortunate, as I was carryng scopes I’d already imported, and had brought back to BHM just to repair. Se la vie.

But on start up after that, all the guages worked again. So no blood, no foul, I guess.

The weather is heating up over the Bahamas and over Haiti, too. It’s a little hard to get good weather analysis, and XM quits right around the middle of Andros, so staying visual is a big deal, or you could be bouncing around over alot of water.