One day last month, in the poorest part of a poor country, Dr. Michael LoGuidice saw an 8-day-old baby who would not wake up.
The mother did not know what to do. So the doctor undressed the overheated baby. He got fluids in the child's mouth. Finally, the young patient began to stir.
"He looked a lot better," said LoGuidice, medical director of Morton Plant North Bay Hospital's emergency room. "He was able to grab our hands."
Then the baby left, and in came another sick child: Working at a weekend medical clinic in Cite Soleil, the largest slum in Haiti, can mean an endless stream of suffering.
LoGuidice and two North Bay colleagues, ER physician Eric Liu and nurse Robin Patterson, volunteered last month at the Haiti Clinic, a free, once-a-month operation started last year by a group of doctors from Brevard and Indian River counties working with Haitian partners.
In two days, the North Bay team, which paid its own way to Haiti, treated nearly 500 people.
The trio recently spoke with the Pasco Times about the poverty they saw and some surprising observations they made. What follows is an edited transcript.
Where was the clinic held?
Liu: It was held at a three-story school.
Patterson: We use the term "school" loosely. It was like two rooms on each floor. It was nothing like a school.
LoGuidice: The kids sat on little bleachers. They didn't even have their own desks.
Now the people who came in, what were you treating them for?
How do they get worms?
Patterson: The children are so poor they're eating dirt.
LoGuidice: We also saw a lot of malnourishment, dehydration. The lifespan of an average person in Haiti is about 50. I saw about six or seven people who were over 50. How about you?
Liu: That's about right. But all they had was arthritis. Because if you survive that long without medicines, you're pretty strong.
LoGuidice: We did see some kids who were orphaned; their moms and dads died in the violence a few years ago. We saw an 11-year-old who was taking care of her 8-year-old brother and her 3-year-old brother.
They live alone?
LoGuidice: Yes, they live alone in a little crevice. They have an aunt who lives not that far away.
So you're treating somebody that you're not going to see again. What was that like? You don't know how what you're doing is going to work out for them.
LoGuidice: After the first couple of patients, I thought: We've got to come back. I was like "Oh, my God, these kids really need help." This is nothing like working here in New Port Richey.
You like to help people here, too, but there are certain people of a McDonald's mindset: "I want it fast, I want it now, you took too long, you didn't smile enough."
In Haiti, you're taking care of people who didn't have any money but they were nice. What's amazing to me is that even (though) these people were homeless and had no running water, they were all clean.
Liu: They were wearing their Sunday best.
LoGuidice: Their oral hygiene was impeccable.
Really? How did they manage that?
Patterson: You did see people selling toothpaste, these guys going down the street with little carts of toothpaste.
LoGuidice: They had a lot of pride in their appearance, and they were appreciative too.
Do you think this is going to affect your view of what you do here?
Liu: Working in the ER, it's easy to get quite jaded. … Down there, we saw quite a few people who said, "I've got a headache," or, "My leg hurts when I walk up a hill." We'd say, "Well, here, take a Tylenol."
Patterson: And they were so grateful to get Tylenol.
Liu: Here it's, "No, Tylenol doesn't work. I need Percocet."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.