News from Sam
09 May 2011

Pay It Forward

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About a year ago, at my old job, a patient gave me a hundred dollars.  She was old and weak, and didn’t have a way to get to a pharmacy when I called her and told her she needed to start an antibiotic for her urine infection.  I dropped off her antibiotic on my way home.  It wasn’t a big deal to me.  But, I guess it meant everything to her.  She invited me in, poured me some juice, and insisted that I take a hundred dollar bill from her.  I protested – I could lose my job, it was against regulations.  She started to get very offended and even angry.  So, I took the money.

Today was the follow-up appointment for a patient I saw two days ago with an open wound on his hip that is not healing.  He is in his early 40s and, except for a bit of a birth deformity on one of his legs, he is otherwise active and healthy.  Unfortunately, he has been unable to work because of the infection and the pain from it.  He had a surgery three months ago on that spot, and it hasn’t healed.  After meeting the patient two days ago, I discussed his case by email with Dr. Ralph Pennino, plastic surgeon and founder of Intervol.  Ralph got back to me right away with a plan of care.

So today, I brought a month’s worth of wound supplies to the patient, and spent half an hour with my translator carefully teaching him about sterility, how to do a wet-to-dry dressing change, how to use sterile gloves, etc.

But, the big picture is that the patient is stuck.  He can’t work because of his wound.  So, he can’t afford food.  So, he is malnourished and can’t heal properly.  And because he can’t heal, he can’t work.  I asked him what he had had to eat.  Today, he had a little bit of adult nutrition formula.  Yesterday, he had a little bit of rice.  The day before that, he had a little bit of rice.

So, I gave him the hundred dollars from a year ago, and I said – take this money (enough to eat for a month in Haiti), eat three large meals a day, and you will heal.

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