In the morning, I bring my coffee mug to the swing on the porch and look out at the mist rising from the Cahos mountains across the Artibonite River. As the sun rises, the blue-grey hills turn to a light green, with dots of dark green marking the few remaining trees near the mountain ridges.
The skyline is pierced in the foreground by the crest of a majestic coconut palm, whose green fronds spread out and up above the tops of the mango trees below. Emerging from the top fronds is a solitary slender spike, almost 5 feet high, ending in a sharp point. Most mornings, a reddish-brown bird with a short beak and a long tail perches on the spike, with an unobstructed view over the valley. It is a Gri-gri, Falco Sparverius according to Steve Latta’s book about the birds of Hispaniola, and it constantly scans the rice and corn fields below. Frequently, it darts off the spike and dives to the ground below, in search of a suitable breakfast. Soon, he returns, and continues to scan the fields.
It is almost possible to imagine that, with his clear view of the Artibonite’s serpentine course, he can see the communities near the river and canals from which the cases of cholera are coming, and then, turning his head, he can see the hospital’s white roof tucked in among the leafy trees. Maybe he can tell us where the next wave of cases are coming from, or where the polluted sections of the river are.
Yesterday, he slipped off the spike, spread his wings, and power-stroked up the slope to the house, swept under the porch roof and banked out into the leafy branches of the strangler fig which anchors the East side of the house. Was he bringing a message? I was probably too big for an early morning snack, but had he noticed me looking at him through the binoculars, and wanted to know what I was up to?
After three days of rain, representing the far edge of Tropical Storm Tomas, people started to re-emerge from their homes, and some, who had encountered the symptoms of diarrhea, but did not want to venture out in the rain, started to come to the hospital. By midday yesterday, we had 28 adults and 19 children, the highest census in the past two weeks. One person had suffered at home with his symptoms and sadly, by the time he came to the hospital, it was too late for the IVs and rehydration solution to take effect. Now that the sun has come out again, more people are coming in, and we are preparing for a busy week.
Many journalists have come to HAS to visit during the cholera outbreak and the Tomas watch; the reporter and photographer from Newsweek were especially sensitive as today’s story about cholera and HAS shows.