Bella Hutchinson. Making a Difference in Haiti

I grew up in a very creative family; my father, Ron Hutchinson, is a writer, my mother, Alisa Taylor, worked in the entertainment business and was a dancer, and my elder brother, Nick Hunt is also a writer.  Therefore it was pretty much expected that I would become a writer/artist too.

However, I had a pretty drastic change of heart during 9th grade.  Now, applying to colleges, I am looking not for a great art school, but a school with fantastic international and pre-med programs.

I have been on many medical trips, but my latest was a 10-day trip to Haiti with a team of about 30.  The team included three doctors, a bunch of med students, a handful of residents and a couple of paramedic/EMTs.

I have my EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and first responder qualifications and a lot of experience in the field, however it was still a surprise to me when I was put as the head of wound care for the team.  This meant I was in charge of all the wounds presented.  I would have to clean them, apply medicine, wrap them up and even occasionally stitch them up.

Now at this point you’re probably wondering if that’s even legal.  Trust me, I did too.  But, working in a third-world country with little to no healthcare provided, things like legalities seem trivial.  The wounds I dealt with, while big enough to warrant a trip to the ER in the United States, weren’t big enough that I could make a mistake and hurt the person further.  Most needed just a quick squirt of alcohol, a swipe of antibiotic cream and a nice bandage accompanied by the occasional lecture about keeping the area dry and clean, applying the medicine we supplied daily, not picking at it, etc.  More intense injuries included a saline rinse, stitches and sometimes,anesthesia. 

I learned to administer Lidocaine in the back of a bus meant for about 10 people instead of the 20 standing around watching, not including the kicking child I was working on, and three assisting medical students (all at least five years older than me) calming him down and holding him still.  I use the term “learned” loosely; it was more like the doctor handed me a syringe and said, “go.”  Nevertheless, I have mastered the task of sticking people with needles pretty well and have ever since been the go-to person when the doctors are too busy or overwhelmed to do it themselves.

Despite the many odd, frustrating, intense and hilarious situations I have been in, what sticks out the most to me are the people.  The two things I see the most in these situations are desperation and hope.  Usually the two come at you so fast that it’s only afterwards that you really realize what it was you saw.  You can look in one direction during clinic and see people yelling and shouting in order to get to the front of the line, and then immediately look the other way and see people laughing and smiling as they receive a supply of vitamins and antibiotics.  It’s an intense atmosphere and you never quite know how to act as you’re bombarded with these visuals from all directions.

Without a doubt, though, the people are the best part of the trips.  It is for this reason I enjoyed teaching community education the most.  Small classes about the correct way to wash your hands and brush your teeth brought such joy to people.  The desperation to learn, the gratefulness...., and the hopefulness are worth everything.  The giggles and smiles from children when playing soccer with them, the laughs and hugs from parents when their children are given attention, the tears and crying from families when negative diagnoses are given, the wonder and content from mothers hearing their babies heartbeat for the first time, and all of the bad and the good?  It’s the people that make it worth it.  Because that is something that will never fade.  The medicine may be gone, but the friendships and memories that were made?  They’ll stay on forever.



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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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