February 7, 2018
“I’ve had pain in my belly for three months,” our first patient said in French-Creole.
The nurse dutifully filled out the rest of her questionnaire.
Pregnant 10 times, 3 miscarriages, 7 births, menopause 2 years ago. Her husband had died. She heard we were there to do tests for cervical cancer. Technically, she was a couple years older than the ideal screening candidate, but she was here, and searched our faces for an answer to her concerns.
Her lower abdomen was a bit tender. The pelvic exam revealed a mass the size of a small apple, and my glove wore the evidence of a tumor eroding through her cervix, bleeding upon contact. We looked at each other and told her to return the following day for a biopsy. We knew the problem. We all knew the problem. “My life is in God’s hands “ she said, gazed up, crossed herself, and promised to be back the next day.
If this woman had been screened just a couple of years ago she would likely have been treated and would not have developed cervical cancer. Currently, women diagnosed with cervical cancer are told to gather enough money for the six hour drive from Cap-Haitien to Port au Prince for a radical hysterectomy and adjuvant chemotherapy.
During our visit to Justinien Hospital in Cap-Haitien, GoDocGo founder and director Dr. Maggie Carpenter negotiated steps with Dr. Christophe LeCompte, chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department to begin doing these hysterectomies and adjuvant chemotherapy locally. Hopefully, this woman will benefit.
This trip to Haiti brought together two attending Ob/Gyn physicians, two Ob/Gyn resident physicians, a high school senior aspiring to be an Ob/Gyn, GoDocGo Program Director Patricia Bacon and GoDocGo Founder and Director Dr.. Maggie Carpenter. Over two days, we taught 20 residents, interns, and externs (5th year medical students) the basics of the see and treat technique, Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA), cryotherapy, and the LEEP procedure.
Two afternoon clinics were arranged after morning training to see patients and give the residents hands-on training. As our two day screening came to a close, one of the hospital administrative assistants appeared and sat herself down in our examination room. She wanted to be screened. Fortunately, she will not suffer the fate of our first patient. Her early lesion revealed itself after application of the white vinegar solution, and was confirmed by Lugol’s iodine solution. She was treated and walked out, smiling. We were smiling, too.
Dr. Kristin Austin, Go Doc Go Volunteer Physician