BY ASHLEY LODATO
Chelsea Miller became a nurse partly because she wanted to travel to other countries and connect with people. Growing up, she went on trips with her father, Don Miller (also a nurse), and got to see what it was like visiting other countries as a health care professional. When she found out that her father would be going to Haiti this past March – his third trip to the country – Chelsea decided to join him.
This was Chelsea’s first foreign trip as a nurse, although she did complete part of her nursing studies in Thailand. She and her father joined other foreign health care workers at one of the clinics set up by Sean Penn through the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in Port au Prince.
Chelsea and Don dealt with a wide range of health issues, but their primary focus was diabetes prevention and management. Don went to markets in Haiti and took pictures of all the different foods available and then had posters and pamphlets translated into Creole showing which foods were compatible with a diabetes-friendly diet.
A bi-weekly Chronic Disease Day at the clinic provided Chelsea and Don an opportunity to reach patients afflicted with disease; they distributed the information to patients, took vital signs, took blood sugars, and working with a translator helped patients understand ways they could control diabetes through diet and lifestyle choices. Chelsea says that when they arrived at the clinic each morning there would be 60 to 100 patients waiting to be treated.
The clinics are very well organized and are staffed primarily with Haitian doctors, nurses and EMTs, with foreign health care workers providing additional assistance and consultation. Chelsea’s group brought an oncologist from the United States with them to Haiti and he consulted with the local physicians about cervical and breast cancer prevention and treatment.
Chelsea also worked in the emergency department, providing IV hydration, treating malaria, and a lot of skin infections, including scabies, ringworm and fungal infections.
During their time in Port au Prince, Chelsea and Don lived in a house with about 20 other volunteers, mostly from the United States, Canada, France, and northern Europe. Port au Prince is not a complete disaster anymore, says Chelsea, but the roads within the city are still in terrible condition, with enormous potholes everywhere. Things have improved vastly in recent years, however. Flying into Port au Prince you used to see roofs of tents everywhere; now you see a lot of tin roofs.
Chelsea is back home now for a while, but hopes to travel as a nurse to India and Southeast Asia in the near future.