Haiti

I am using my Iphone to make an entry. See if this works. My heart
goes out to Haiti. They are wonderful people and have suffered so much
even before this catastrophic earthquake happened. Many years ago I was going to the Club Med
that was there. My luggage never arrived and I decided to wait in Port
of Prince in hopes of it arriving on another flight. I missed the
shuttle to the Club which was on the other side of the island. A young
Israeli who was living there and working offered to help and drive me
over once I got my bags. He needed to go to work and suggested I drop
him off and use his car while he worked. It was a stick shift and I
had never driven a stick before. I knew the concept because when I was
young my older brother had a Triumph sports car and he would let me
shift as he depressed the clutch while I sat in the passenger seat.
My new friend got out of the car at his office and I moved into the
drivers seat. I was now alone with this unfamiliar manual car in a
extremely hilly and unfamiliar city. In the flat part there was a market and the
streets were flooded with people. Between maneurerving on the steep
hills and stopping and starting making my way through a sea of people, I
learned quickly how to drive a stick shift. It was a crash course.
Several days passed as I stayed in Port of Prince in hopes of my
luggage arriving. Within those days I did a stupid thing. I did not
take my anti-malaria pills. My new friend convinced me that it wasn’t
necessary and I believed him. I ended up getting badly bitten. The malaria
took 10 days to incubate. By that time I was back in NY when I
starting getting sick.

I did eventually make it to the Club Med.
However, my luggage never did arrive and I was able to manage with very
little clothing essentially living in a bathing suit at the club. Back
then a bikini looked quite good on my body. I enjoyed the few days I
had at the club, was now an experienced manual shift driver and
unbeknownst to me was bitten by the malaria mosquito and was about
to get very sick.

Soon after I woke in NY and felt like I had lost the war
and couldn’t even get up to move my car to the right side of the
street. That is when I knew I needed help and called my parents. Back
then, I was in the midst of a turmoil relationship with them and
would have done anything not to see them. I was really sick and needed
help. They picked me up and brought me back to their home and then
to the HMO I was a member of. After a long wait the doctor finally
saw me. My fever was high and rising. I told him about my concern that
I might have malaria and why. After a quick examination he sent me
home saying I was a “hot mama.” He did order blood work. I looked at
the tech drawing my blood and asked him where he was. I was right, he
was from Haiti. I told him of my concern and how I was bitten alive
and didn’t take the anti-malaria pills. He in turn told me his story
about having malaria when he was a kid. The results came back that I
didn’t have malaria. It didn’t make sense. My fever was rising and hit
107 degrees. I was wondering when your brain fries. My mother was
sponging me down with cold water trying to get my fever down. At this
point, I had called the infectious disease unit at Columbia P Hospital
and asked if it was difficult to find malaria and to determine which
kind it was. Both answers were no. A couple of days later the phone
rang and it was my doctor who told me in fact I did have malaria and
to meet him at the hospital in the emergency room. I asked which kind
I had and he said he didn’t know and it didn’t matter. It did matter.
I knew that from my little research I had done. This was before
personal computers and the Internet. I had spoken directly to the
infectious disease doctors and read the Merck manual that my father
had always kept a copy of. Dad suffered from hyperchondriasm and was
frequently referring to the Merck manual to check and see about his
latest symptoms and what new disease he might have. I couldn’t
believe my doctor’s response. It was bad enough it took him so long to
confirm my diagnosis of malaria.. granted he had never seem a patient
with malaria before but what you don’t know you find out . I told him
in a strong, angry tone to call in a hemotologist and find out what
type of malaria I had. And I let him know I was not going to the
hospital. I gave him the number of my pharmacist and told him to call
him the prescription for quinine. As soon as I started the medication
I began to feel better. The parasites inhabiting my liver were now
being slaughtered. In a matter of a few days I was a new person. The
good news is I never had another reoccurrence.

This is a long story about my trip to Haiti and it’s aftermath.
Years later I developed a TV show called Melting Pot and the first episode I shot was with a
Haitian family. I felt at home with them as they embraced me with
their warmth and love. Today I pray for the people of Haiti that they
get what they need to survive, heal and come out this tragedy and loss
stronger.

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