Cape League president travels to Haiti to help devastated country.
Trying to keep up with Cape Cod Baseball League president Judy Walden Scarafile is no easy task. She has boundless energy, a commitment to whatever cause is on her plate at the time and she will go out of her way to make sure the project is done right.
Recently, Scarafile returned from an eight-day trip to Haiti in which she used her profession as a pharmacist to help treat people in rural villages.
This was her second visit to the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, which has suffered greatly due to the effects of a devastating earthquake in 2010 and recent cholera outbreaks.
Her first trip was last year in which she was accompanied by her husband, Peter, also a pharmacist. They mostly worked with the earthquake relief effort in and around the capital, Port-au- Prince. Both times she has gone with the organization Medishare - a non-profit agency out of the University of Miami Medical School set up in 1994 to help provide quality healthcare to the people of Haiti.
This time, however, she and a team of 14 others went 2½ hours outside the capital to help the inhabitants of five villages in the mountains in a mobile medical unit. Most of them did not have clinics and, if they did, it was the only permanent structure in town. In one village, Scarafile says, they used a school as a makeshift clinic.
Of the many illnesses they were treating, cholera was one of the most rampant as there was a second major outbreak in Haiti, this time confined to the rural, mountainous areas. “The media is giving this no attention because it is not happening in Port-au-Prince”, Scarafile explained. In one village where the team came to offer aid, 25 tents had been set up outside for cholera patients where they had to live while receiving treatment.
The major reason for this outbreak is the lack of access to clean water. Scarafile saw people wash themselves and their belongings, including she says, a motorcycle, in the same river from which they got their drinking water. “No one there has a bathroom”, she says, and human waste from the woods gets washed down into the river when it rains.”
Each day, the group of doctors, grad students and medical students would split up into two teams. On the first day some went to the clinic while the others went door-to-door to check on families in the village. Many generations still live in one house, which is usually made out of leaves, mud, and a little wood. Couples are often not married because an official wedding ceremony is too expensive.
When communicating with patients, Scarafile says, she relied heavily on using her hands and drawing pictures to try and get the message across as she cannot speak French or Creole. While there were two translators on the trip, she rarely saw them because they were always running between the 3 medical units they had set up: adult, juvenile, and maternal. She would sometimes find someone who could speak Spanish and conjure up what she remembered from high school.
An available translator was really needed, she says, because if the patients do not understand their prescriptions and do not get them refilled, they will remain sick.“The goal of Medishare is to provide quality healthcare and the organization is doing incredible work,” Scarafile says. The co-founder of Medishare, Doctor Arthur Fournier of the University of Miami also accompanied the team on this trip. “It was like being around a celebrity to me,” she said.