Haitian nun leads panel on health
Aidan Lewis | Thursday, December 1, 2016
Sister Bernadette Nicolas, a nun and nurse from Haiti, spoke about her work with AIDS and tuberculosis patients in Haiti on Wednesday night in DeBartolo Hall. Nicolas is a member of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, which she said is dedicated to helping those living in poverty in Haiti.
“The congregation was founded to take care of patients in the mountains of Haiti, where there are sisters working in 10 geographical areas,” Nicolas said. “We provide education, healthcare and social work.”
Nicolas said the sisters noticed the lack of care available to many AIDS and tuberculosis patients in Haiti, and decided they needed to take action.
“One day, somebody went to our funder to explain the situation,” Nicolas said. “Our funder asked the sisters to go and visit these [AIDS patients]. We started to visit them each Sunday, with food and many things for them. We took care of them.”
Since this humble beginning, Nicolas said the sisters have opened up a hospital dedicated to helping AIDS and tuberculosis. Natural Baptiste, a freshman who presented at the event, said tuberculosis is an enormous problem in Haiti, and is called “the disease of the poor.”
“In low-income countries, 238 per 100,000 people are infected with active tuberculosis, whereas in high income countries, like America, 21 out of 100,000 people are infected,” Baptiste said. “The reason why it’s so prevalent in low income countries is because of poor sanitation and a lack of proper nutrition.”
For this reason, Nicolas said she felt inspired to provide any assistance she could to those who were suffering.
“It is very hard to see the young people die from tuberculosis or AIDS,” Nicolas said. “But it was very important for me to be there to help our people.”
Nicolas said that although working in the hospital is very rewarding, it has brought with it a multitude of challenges, such as inadequate resources for giving patients the treatment they need.
“We don’t have enough personnel to take care of the people,” Nicolas said. “I have to do many things. In the morning we have to visit these people and see if they have enough food for a balanced diet. During the midday, we have to take them to see the doctor. I also have to educate them about their condition and provide medicines.”
Another problem, Nicolas said, is that some patients come at a point too late in the disease for any treatment to make a real difference.
“Sometimes when they try to receive a consultation, they die before we can see them,” Nicolas said.
However, Nicolas said word is spreading in Haiti about the hospital and the care it provides.
“We had one young man who came after he had first gone to a voodoo priest for help,” Nicolas. “He lost all his money to this voodoo priest. But one day, someone told him to go to the hospital. When he came, he got much better. It is a testament to the hospital that someone told him to stay away from the voodoo priests and come to the hospital instead.”