02 October 2011

The 365 Doors Palace

We see many patients, most notably a patient that experiences extremely debilitating phantom pain and often episodes of severe pain are as frequent as five minutes apart. His phantom foot was clenched in a very painful position. We introduced him to the mirror, where he was able to slowly unclench his phantom, immediately reducing his pain. It is amazing to see the “aha!” moments experienced by the patients in which the mirror therapy clicks and they begin playing with the mirror— tapping their intact limb and grinning when they feel the tap in the phantom.

After a morning full of mirror box therapy, we explore Ti rivière with our new friend and ex-patriot Nicholas. He brings us to pottery studios, art galleries,and furniture and wood carvers. We travel to the Artibonite region of Haiti about two and a half hours from the capital Port-au-Prince. Petite-Rivière de l'Artibonite bears enormous touristic potentialities beside its incredible landscape and historical monuments. Symbolizing a glorious past, the 365 Doors Palace still remains the pride of Petite-Rivière residents despite its deterioration.

Further up above one of the Cahos' hillocks stands the Crete-a-Pierrot fort that still dominates the Artibonite plain and river. Built by liberated slaves, renovated by the British during their stay in the region, then quickly transformed into Citadel by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Crete-a-Pierrot fort has been the setting in March 1802 of one of the bloodiest battles that led later to the independence of Haiti.

Nicholas is an excellent tour guide, having spent a majority of his days over the past decade at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. He is a true inspiration and asset to the region. He also manages a local musical group, Prestige. Their music and more about Nicholas' philanthropic pursuits can be found at Nicholas' blog:


While walking through the town, Nicholas points out several murals that he and his art students have painted. The murals tell the story of the town, how the community has come together since the earthquake and how the inhabitants imagine the town could be rebuilt. Higher up in our view we pass several billboards with advertisements showing how to wash your hands with soap and water to prevent cholera. To return to the hospital campus, we elect to travel via motorcycle taxi. We soon arrive at a river where we must take a boat across as there hasn't been enough funding or support to build a bridge. This is quite unfortunate as a bridge here could help expedite the town's activities and progress tenfold.

Back on our motorcycle taxis, we head towards the HAS campus. Claude and I take a quick spill, Claude nearly dislocates his knee and I burn my leg on the exhaust pipe. After a quick rest and recovery at the Melon's house, Nick brings us to the hospital's botanical garden. We are introduced to the sweet taste of cocoa pods (it is the seeds from this fruit that chocolate is made). The pods are filled with savory pulp (called 'baba de cacao' in South America) enclosing 30 to 50 large seeds that are fairly soft and white to pale lavender in color.

Nicole, Claude and I then travel to the physical therapy clinic at the hospital, where we give several powerpoint presentations to the physical therapy students on how to do mirror box therapy with their patients. The students are incredibly impressive, asking many intelligent questions.

As two members of the team (Lina and Brittany) elected to arrive in Haiti further into the trip, Nicole, Claude and I worked for the past several days with the local community to assemble a list of what donated supplies would be most helpful for the region: do they need sneakers, notebooks, pens, tools? Turns out, all of the above. We work with friends and family back home to assemble several large duffle bags full of everything from art supplies to sneakers, soap to prenatal vitamins. The two other members of our team (Lina Delbruck and Brittany Lyng), with donated supplies, arrive at the HAS campus late this Wednesday evening. ( An exciting introduction to the region, Brittany and Lina were delayed in Port-au-Prince due to a road block created from protests over electricity. ) After a brief meal, Nicole, Claude and I take them to the corner bar and local meet up spot “Kimmelem” (which roughly translates to “I don't care – don't worry about it”) and introduce them to the local customs. After some dancing and a trip home via local motorcycle transportation we let them get some much needed rest.


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