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August 13, 2010

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Dr. Worthen showed pictures and described his experiences on a recent mission trip to Haiti. During his first two days he saw 146 patients. With the exception of one child who had intestinal worms, every child had Malaria. Dr. Worthen arrived home Sunday, and began seeing patients on Tuesday, August 10th. He plans to return to Haiti in December 2010.

Dr. Worthen

Dr. Worthen


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New doctor moved by Haitians' plight

By: Ryan D. Wilson, News Editor, The Clay Center Dispatch August 16, 2010
With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, new Clay Center doctor Christopher Worthen was able to do a lot of good in a visit to Haiti that he just returned from about a week ago.

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Worthen packed all the medical supplies he could and spent a week doing clinics in the villages of Bois Neul and Versettes. Versettes, a very remote village that had never seen a doctor before, took half a day by foot and climbing a mountain to reach.

"I was very honored to be the first doctor to visit that village," Worthen said.

But before the young doctor took the grueling trek to provide medical treatment to people who had never seen a doctor, he had to get through Haitian Customs at the airport first. Since the earthquake, Haitian Customs had figured out they can make a lot of money by demanding bribes for allowing medical supplies to get through. Worthen was prepared to bribe an official up to $200 to get supplies through.

Fortunately it didn't take that. He happened to go through Haiti Customs at a time when the customs worker was near the end of his shift and wanted to get home. The worker stamped his customs form without looking, even though Worthen had filled out the form accurately about what he had.

Worthen said his pastor challenged him to do a missionary trip to Haiti. When he arrived in Port Au Prince, he said damage from January's earthquake was still evident, in fact 98 percent of the rubble has not been removed.

"The problem with the earthquake is that Haiti has no infrastructure," Worthen said. "The roads are bumpy, there's no bulldozers or cranes, so the rubble is just sitting there. They've got guys with shovels and wheel barrows clearing it out."

With 30,000 commercial buildings that were damaged, destroyed or abandoned because of the earthquake, it will take many years for Haiti to clear that out with shovels and wheel barrows, Worthen said.

Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV are the three most common diseases in Haiti. In fact, of the children Worthen saw all but one had malaria, and the one that didn't had intestinal worms.

Worthen shared other statistics about the health of Haitians: Only 26 of births are attended by a skilled medical provider, compared to 99 percent in the US; 682 out of 100,000 mothers die during childbirth (compared to 14 in the US); 182 children out of 100,000 die before the age of 5 (compared to 8 in the US); and the average life expectancy is 55 (compared to 78 in the US).

Worthen mostly saw children at his clinic visits where Haitians walked for hours to see him, including one elderly woman.

"The mothers wanted to know their children were okay," Worthen said. "I was very honored that mothers dressed their children in their finest clothes to come see me."
One Red Cross volunteer commented that a Haitian police officer that Worthen had met "needed a little meat on his bones" after seeing a picture, and Worthen replied "You'll find that most of them do."

However most infants and children were fairly well fed, Worthen said he only found one, an undernourished four-month infant whose mother he gave formula.

"Babies have a way of stealing what they need from Mom," he said.

Worthen also saw a diabetic man with a foot injury, which he treated with an antibiotic; pregnant women which he gave prenatal vitamins, an infant with respiratory problem he suspected was suffering from pneumonia, which he gave medicine to treat that, a child with a fungal growth on his back which he gave an anti-fungal cream, and an elderly woman with high blood pressure that he gave pills to lower blood pressure. He also distributed Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

The most common symptoms people came to see him about included fatigue, dizziness, problems sleeping and urinary problems. Dizziness was the most frustrating because often it was the most difficult to figure out what was causing that.

The elderly woman he saw complained of dizziness and collapsed only the way to see him. She got there in the arms of her grandson, who carried her to the clinic the rest of the way. Aside from being dehydrated, she also had a blood pressure of 230 over 110.

Worthen gave her 365 blood pressure pills she could take daily and promised to be back again before she ran out.
He intends to return and do more clinics in the first week of this December.

For the clinics he saw people until he was so exhausted he couldn't see them anymore, and still, on the last day he had to turn away 50 people.

"That was still heartbreaking because I knew they had walked several hours to see me," Worthen said. "Academically, I knew what I was going to see in Haiti, but emotionally, spiritually, you can't prepare."

Before returning to the US, he arrived at the airport to come home four hours early and said he cried the whole time, because that was time he could have spent helping someone.