Monday, February 1, 2010

Joseline Marhone is the face of Haitian optimism.

By Tyler Marshall

On Jan. 12th, the day of the earthquake, she lost loved ones and a comfortable home. Her prestigious job as Director of Nutrition in Haiti’s Ministry of Health quite literally dropped out from under her when the ministry itself collapsed. In short, her world turned upside down.

A respected physician who also teaches as the National University Hospital, Marhone didn’t dwell on her loss. She didn’t hesitate a day.

The morning after the quake, she opened an emergency clinic under a grove of trees adjacent to the wreckage of the Church of St. Pierre in the St. Louis area of Port au Prince, just a few miles from downtown and began treating the injured. Several of her medical students quickly joined her. A tent was erected, canvas sheets were put up to added more shade and mattresses were hauled in to create a 13-bed in-patient section to the clinic.

Now International Medical Corps is supporting the clinic with a volunteer physician, medications and food for those who now reside in the makeshift neighborhood in and around the clinic.

Talking animatedly with a big smile, Marhone’s body language alone conveys the message that (1) the only response to the earthquake is to get on with rebuilding and (2) there’s no time to waste.

“We don’t have homes, we don’t have offices and we sleep right here at night and I’m practicing general medicine again,” she said with a big smile. “I’m available for anyone who comes here and we’ll stay for as long as we’re needed.”

Monday, the clinic treated about 60 patients—roughly half of them with earthquake-related wounds that require cleaning and new dressings. Physicians report a growing number of skin rashes, stomach problems and diarrhea—complaints that reflect the stress of maintaining good hygiene while living in the streets or in makeshift tent camps.

International Medical Corps’s support began just over a week ago when it provided a volunteer physician and badly needed medicines. Volunteer physician My-Charllins Vilsaint who is Haitian American, currently serves at the clinic along side Haitian physicians. Sunday, International Medical Corps delivered 2.5 metric tons of rice, beans, maise and vegetable oil to the residents of the little community—an action that clearly lifted Marhone’s spirits.

After treating the injured and sick for much of the day, at night, her commute is short: she sleeps under the stars at her clinic.

“It’s satisfying to be tending to patients,” she said.

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