I worked in a hospital in rural Haiti during the summer of 1999 as a college student. I recently found some old folders from back then, and saw faces of patients long dead. Since in Haiti there are not the same privacy laws we have here, I can share the faces of the people I saw there. I still wish to portray people with the utmost respect. (Often patients asked me to take their pictures or draw them.) There are some things you can see in the face of dying patients that it is impossible to describe. This is a woman who came to our hospital from a tiny village. She was found to be in renal failure. There was no dialysis for poor Hatians, so there was nothing that could be done for her. She went home to die with her family. Before putting her in the truck to carry her home, I made this picture. She asked me not to forget her. I haven't.
I first experienced medicine in Haiti. I still think of the people I cared for there, as I now study medicine here in Tennessee. I have another woman (whose name or story I would not be permitted to tell) who will die very soon, perhaps even tonight. I sometimes wonder if I get “too involved” with my patients. In specialties other than Family Medicine loving your patients is often looked down upon. I think, however, that for those who are suffering, kindness is often much better than medicines.