Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Avera employees making a difference in Haiti

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Avera’s mission is to make a positive impact in the lives sand health of person and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values. Through Avera mission trips to Haiti, their mission is reaching people thousands of miles away.

Since 2002, two to three groups of Avera employees have traveled to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere to help with health care.

“They know Avera. They know when we're coming,” said Kathy English, Avera Registered Nurse.

English has spearheaded the mission trip to Haiti for the past 10 years.

“The second day we were there, there were 85 patients waiting for us. I mean, these people walk six to eight hours to get to the clinic. One day we couldn’t see everybody and they had to cut it off at 85. We couldn’t see the next 15 and so they just sat down on the benches and waited until the next morning. They’d walk to get there, there was no sense walking home. So they really value the health care and were the clinic not there, that’s 40,000 people that would have no health care,” said English.

English says she was anxious to get back to Haiti this year, as it was the first time being back since Hurricane Matthew hit back in October.

“We do medical work, we help with infrastructure, a lot of teaching, and we do whatever they need at the time and we bring what they ask. I would say most of the things we bring have been donated,” said English.

Members of the community have donated everything from handmade dresses, food and supplies for English and the others to bring to Haiti.

“The nice thing is that we’ve been there since 2002, so we see the difference, we see the healthier children and it doesn’t take much,” said English.

“Almost every person would have acid reflux because of the lack of things they can have in the diet and they have – just the types of things that they eat. But I would say, nine out of 10 patients would have acid reflux and would want – they thought tums were just amazing, but we did have some options for prescription medications to help them with that too," said Caitlin Powell, Registered Nurse at Avera.

Powell says patients at the clinic complained about a few specific symptoms.

"But they would almost always have a headache and that’s because of their hyper tension. They all had high blood pressure and then I noticed too that a lot of patients would come in and just overall pain – like I just hurt here and here and they would point to everywhere they hurt but I mean when you’re doing, have a machete in a field and you’re doing this for eight hours a day, your shoulder is going to be sore. They would come get their Tylenol and go back to working hard,” said Powell.

This was Powell’s first time going on the Avera Haiti Mission Trip. The stories and experiences she brought back to South Dakota are ones she says she will never forget.

“There was one little girl that was dressed up, just dolled up in her Sunday best – like they get really, really dressed up – but she wore her nice outfit to the clinic and when she was done, her mother quick changed her out by the tree and put it on her, whether it was her sister, cousin or her friend, so she could look her best for Dr. Katie too,” said Powell.

“We’re really making an impact in a part of the country that the world has basically forgotten. If you think of it, two days after the hurricane you never heard any more about Haiti and yet the people are suffering terribly. But when a woman puts her arm around me and says ‘I pray for you at Avera,’ It’s a humbling experience. It really is. Your heart’s forever changed when you go to Haiti,” said English.

The relationships made between the Avera employees and the Haitian patients and the impact each have had on each other are priceless.

“It just gives me a better understanding of what other people go through to get health care sometimes,” said Powell.

For more information, just call 877-AT-AVERA.