The impact of disease is not limited to the afflicted individual. The illness of an individual creates a social and economic ripple effect which is complex and crippling.
The patients being treated for cholera at Hospital Albert Schweitzer illustrate this broader impact at the family and community levels. We recently treated a patient from a town called Barbe, which is nestled deep in the mountains above the Artibonite River.
The patient was first brought to a community clinic in Barbe severely dehydrated from cholera, and after initial fluid replacement needed to be transported to HAS for more definitive care. This journey was no simple task, and required a substantial effort from the Barbe community. A front door was unhinged and used as a gurney to carry the patient down a steep, mountain foot path. This required a number of Haitians who would trade carrying the patient one after the other when the fatigue was too much.
This effort to help an ill community member represented a day’s work lost for a number of Haitians, not to mention the patient himself. After the on -foot portion of the trip was complete, it was another hour by truck to HAS. The patient finally arrived accompanied by his wife. Their home and farm would sit empty and idle during his treatment if a friend of neighbor did not care for their land and animals. The patient’s wife stayed at his side for the course of his treatment, preparing his meals (what could be kept down), washing her husband, and cleaning the unrelenting diarrhea. With such care and devotion came more economic loss to the family.
Both adults suffered from cholera, yet only one was infected. This patient, his wife, and the community of Barbe were all impacted by this disease of poverty and sanitation.