Medical supply shortage in Haiti leads to creative care

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Physician assistant treats a Haitian man's delirium tremens.
Physician assistant treats a Haitian man's delirium tremens.

Last February, I worked as the mission chief for the International Medical Corps at the University Hospital of Haiti in Port-au-Prince. One day an elderly male patient came in who was going into delirium tremens, but we did not have adequate medication to treat his problem. I sent one of my interpreters out in the streets to find an alcohol vendor.  

The interpreter returned with a bottle of whiskey, which I administered to the patient in very small doses via a nasogastric tube. As the patient received the 5 cc of whiskey, he remarked to the nurse that it tasted “really good.” It worked, preventing the delirium tremens, and bought me time to transfer the patient to a higher-level, long-term care facility.

I certainly never thought that I would administer such a treatment during my 32 years as a practicing physician assistant. It is amazing what you can do when you don't have the necessary resources and are forced to be creative.

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