The LEAP team landed in Port-au-Prince, and we were picked up at the airport and promptly brought to Hôpital Espoir. We walked in, and work began immediately. The team split up to their respective areas for evaluations: plastics, ENT, and urology. My only job was to see the patient and family before Dr. Hobar, take their name, address, phone number, contact for follow up, age, gender, and finally take their weight. Simple enough – but the language barrier posed a problem for me initially, even with the assistance of a translator. Soon a flow was established, and many patients were seen for evaluation.
On the 2nd and 3rd day, I spent most of my time in the pre- and post-operative room. We prepared the patients for surgery by taking vitals, entertaining them while they waited, and keeping them comfortable. After surgery, the kids were brought back to us from the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). We measured, mixed, and labeled antibiotics and pain medications specific for each child.
Despite the language barrier, one thing that was always understood by the LEAP volunteers and the patients’ families was that we were there for their children. I understood and saw each parent’s gratefulness. I clearly saw their love for their child. Moms of patients hugged me. I was given strokes on the back and arms when their child came out of surgery. Some knew how to say thank you in English. Most communicated their love and appreciation by their body language. I could see their shoulders relax when the stress of understanding our instructions passed. They sat back and looked at their sleeping child, and I knew a great weight had been lifted.
Love. Love is powerful. It breaks down barriers and fuses relationships. I could not speak their language, but I’m certain they knew that we loved their children.
Love brought us thousands of miles from Dallas to a small hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Each time I passed a mom in the waiting room, we locked eyes, smiled, and for a moment, shared the greatest language of all: LOVE.