Coming face-to-face with the chronic illness, poor living conditions and lack of medical care left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian was an eye-opening experience for Alexandra Black, who recently completed her first medical mission to the Bahamas.
Penn State Health St. Joseph midwife completes medical mission to Bahamas
“In my heart, I thought, we don’t know how good we have it,” the Penn State Health St. Joseph certified nurse midwife recalls.
Black spent Sept. 28 through Oct. 5 in Nassau with International Medical Relief, as part of a team that provided medical aid to those devastated by the hurricane. Using a local church as their base of operations, the team traveled each day to other churches where they would set up clinics and tend to the basic medical needs of the mostly Haitian refugees.
“A lot of the people came to Nassau from where the hurricane hit in Abaco. There was nothing left there,” Black explained, adding that residents had overwhelmed the health system. “Many of them suffer from chronic hypertension and chronic diabetes, living with blood pressure readings like 260/120 and blood sugars in the 400s. Others had leg and fungal infections.”
While the team could provide temporary symptomatic relief, many times what the patients were looking for had nothing to do with medicine.
“One woman came with chronic hypertension, but she wanted to talk because her husband passed away in the hurricane. She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t sleeping,” Black said. “Yes, she came to get a checkup, but the more important thing was that we sat, and we listened.”
Although the team’s impact was small in comparison to the work that lies ahead as the islands continue to recover, Black didn’t hesitate when asked if she would return.
“Definitely,” she said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”