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International Programs Student Trip Reports
In keeping with Texas A&M’s Vision 2020 objective of graduating students with a global perspective based on global experiences, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences provides a limited number of travel stipends to students to help them gain international work/study experiences. The following travel reports give an overview of what our students learned while living, working, and studying abroad.
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Haiti - Sarah Burch, Alyzabeth Looney, Sarah Zeisler

1During Christmas break three members of the class of 2016 and Dr. Kevin Thomson, a veterinarian from North Texas, set out to the Republic of Haiti.  This trip was organized through Christian Veterinary Missions, who sends veterinarians and veterinary students abroad to treat animals and educate people about animal husbandry in areas that lack veterinarians.  Haiti is a country that has struggled greatly in recent years.  In 2010, Haiti suffered from a massive earthquake, resulting in a death toll exceeding 100,000.  The country is slowly and steadily recovering.

Shortly after we arrived in Port au Prince, Haiti, we met up with Dr. Kelly Crowdis, an American veterinarian who has lived in Haiti since 2006.  She was our host, teacher, and guide for the week in the country.  We met hundreds of people and treated over 1200 animals.  Here is just a small sampling of some of those interactions:

Our journey to Haiti started bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Even though we all started from different airports, we met up Fort Lauderdale, FL, to continue on to Port-au-Prince.  When we landed in Haiti, standing in a crowd of bustling Haitians was an excited Dr. Kelly Crowdis.  We loaded up all of our bags into the truck and then set out to what would become a daily adventure of facing the crazy Haitian drivers.  Throughout the town, large numbers of people were walking and numerous little stands were set up selling anything from water to toothpaste.  After settling into Dr. Crowdis’s house, we had our first Haitian dinner made by the local girls that live in the house as well.  That night we had the joy of getting to know one another, discuss life in Haiti, and talk about the plans for the week before turning in early.

On Sunday we started the day attending a Haitian church, repacking our bags, and eating lunch.  We organized all of the veterinary supplies and loaded the truck once again to make the long journey over the mountains north to the village of Pignon.  In Pignon, we were greated by Mounssanto, a Haitian veterinarian living in the area, who was gracious enough to take us into his house for the next couple days.  He had organized our job sites and advertised our services in order to spread the word that we were coming.  We spent the night discussing the work for the week and getting to know Mounssanto and his family.

Two photos of trip

Monday started the first day of vet work in the villages around pignon.  Little did we know when we woke up just how hectic our days would be.  After a delicious Haitian breakfast, we loaded up the trucks and drove out to a small village outside of Pignon.  Once we arrived, there were animals, children, and Haitians everywhere waiting for us.  You could here the pigs and goats squeal for miles away.  We quickly broke into groups, ran through treatment protocols, and got to work.  It wasn't long before each of us had our first chance to do surgeries that week.  Dr. Kelly showed us her techniques for field castrations, and while the Haitian owner held his pig, Alyzabeth quickly cut in to start the day.  That day, we each had the chance to castrate mules and pigs, and also split the work of dogs and goats.  We will never forget what it was like to do surgery in the middle of a field with a simple bucket of water, betadyne, a scalpel blade, and some suture.

Our first day held two f the most memorable cases of the week.  The first involved a down cow that had recently given birth and could not get up.  The large animal team quickly got to work giving electrolytes, vitamin B complex injections, and more, and before time she was up to sitting and looked much more alert.  The second case involved an abdominal herniation on a mule.  While he was anesthetized for castrating, Mounssanto had the chance to learn how to correct a herniation.  Dr. Thompson and Dr. Kelly talked him through, and he could not have been more excited to learn another surgery he could offer the people of Haiti.

After a long day of work, our exhausted group drove back to the house, took a freezing cold bucket shower since there was no running water, and prepared for bed.  Since Mounssanto had recently gotten in to the egg laying business, we had the chance to walk down to his chicken houses and tour his coops.  It was extremely interesting to see how agriculture was different in Haiti.  Once we got back to the house, we quickly jumped into bed to recover for the next day.

Our second day of work was by far the busiest.  By the time we arrived at the work site, hundreds of animals were lined up.  Even though there were people everywhere, each waited until they could be seen.  This village was one of the most grateful for our help.

4 and 5

One man had brought his mule for us to look at the saddle sores.  He told us he had been watching them and tried everything he could to keep them from getting worse, but could not afford to see a private veterinarian if there was even one available in the area.  He thanked us deep from his heart for our help and had a smile spread from one ear to the other.

7 and 8

Education was also an important part of the day.  Even though we saw over 800 animals throughout the day, Mounssanto found the time to gather a group of Haitain men and their horses to teach them about the care and prevention of saddle sores.  Each person was engrossed in the conversation as their horses are their livelihood.  Without the help of their mules, horses, and donkeys, they would not be able to plow their crops, take their products to market, or transport themselves on a daily basis.  A big part of the continuing efforts in Haiti is educating the people on animal care in order to continue rebuilding the country.

On Wednesday morning, we woke up to shops being set up outside the house.  Various women in the village had heard of our trip and brought their art and souvenirs for us to buy.  After buying some trinkets, we got ready for a long day of work.  On our last full day of work, we had the opportunity to do lots of castrations and other services we had not had the chance to do early in the week.  Several cows came in to be palpated, putting our abilities to the test, and numerous dog castrations sharpened our surgery skills.  By the third day, we were experts in treating the animals.  Vaccinations went smoothly, deworming was a breeze, and castrating was not nearly as scary.  Each day we felt more confident in our skills and needed less guidance in treatment.

9 10 11

 

Bright and early Thursday morning, we left to treat the local animals of the village.  Before breakfast, we treated numerous cows, equids, goats, pigs, dogs, chickens, and cats.  After about an hour, we left vet supplies with Mounstanto and some of the local vet agents and headed back to the house for breakfast and to finish packing.  We loaded the truck up and started the journey back to Port-au-Prince.

12 and 13

The highlight of the day was getting to see the Christmas pageant at a local school.  Even though we could not understand what they were saying most of the time, the children had us doubled over laughing at their skits and singing along to each of their songs.  We spent the rest of the day talking to each other and adoring the new baby that one of the girls living with Dr. Kelly had a few months earlier.

Trip Memories:

One of my favorite memories involves a down, nursing cow. It was the first day and we were just getting the hang of things when a man came up to us because his cow had fallen down and would not get up. She was very anemic (her mucus membranes were nearly white), dehydrated, and lethargic. Dr. Thomson’s main concerns included parasites (a prevalent problem in Haiti) and hypocalcemia. We dewormed her, gave her a Calcium and Vit B complex injection, and tubed her. Then, we had the owner get a bucket of water and showed him how to use the pump to rehydrate his cow. You could see his face light up having been given the opportunity to help save his cow. As the water level lowered, there was a stray leaf in the bottom of the bucket. He stopped pumping, carefully removed the one leaf, and finished giving his cow water. This was a beautiful image of what veterinary medicine is supposed to be.

– Sarah Burch; Class of 2016

 

Each place I travel truly gives me a new sense of the world, and Haiti definitely taught me gratitude.  My favorite part of the trip was seeing the smiles on the faces of the people whose animals we treated.  Since Haiti is a very poor country, many are not able to seek veterinary care.  Veterinary trips such as ours are the only time many are able to bring their animals to get vaccinated, dewormed, and castrated.  The Haitians took the time to thank us for our help before moving to help the next person bring up their animals.  Most people stayed around all day in order to help hold animals and organize the crowds.  I loved seeing how something as simple as veterinary care could light up a community’s day.

-Alyzabeth Looney; Class of 2016

 

After spending the morning working on animals we were driving back to Mounssanto’s house to get food and in the middle of this bumpy dirt road was a donkey who was laying completely on his side his legs stretched out in front of him with a load of food and charcoal on his back. Three women were standing over him trying to get him to stand back up. So the two veterinarians and three vet students immediately stopped got out of the truck and went to help this donkey and his owners. We checked the color of his gums, listened to his heart and looked for any other injuries. We did not see anything out of the ordinary so we took off his big heavy pack and let him lie there for a minute with it off. After a few moments he decided to stand back up again on his own and seemed to be doing better. When we were sure he was okay we put the pack back on his back, the women thanked us and kept walking down the road with their donkey. This was a reminder to me to take the time in the midst of our chaotic lives to help others when the opportunity arises.

– Sarah Zeisler; Class of 2016



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