We went to Port-au-Prince today and visited the university hospital. It is the only standing med center in the city. We saw all the destruction first hand and drove through the busiest, noisiest, and dirtiest city I have ever seen. We actually wore face masks to protect us from the smoke, stench of garbage and everything else you can imagine in a city devastated by an earthquake.
We were immediately swarmed by the emergency med teams at the hospital with 10 patients that needed orthopaedic care. Apparently there is no longer any orthopaedic presence in the city. Everyone has pulled out except for a few small groups like our own. The emergency teams there were, needless to say, very happy to see us. We found four patients that we were able to transport back to our hospital that needed surgery. One of them was a little 12-year-old girl in a body cast covered with stool and urine. She had a femur fracture and was placed in the cast after the quake but had sat on the ground for the past 5 weeks suffering in the heat and poor conditions. We transported her home on our flat bed truck along with her grandmother and the other three patients: a humerus fracture, dislocated thumb, and patella fracture. As soon as we arrived at Double Harvest, we mobilized our teams and took off the cast in the operating room, cleaned her wounds, and put on an external fixator. This morning she was resting comfortably in her hospital bed. She was comforted by the two stuffed animals she received from the Pineridge donation. Her grandmother was very grateful and very happy to see that her granddaughter was no longer suffering. It was the final accomplishment for our team and we were all happy to help one more patient that had been a victim of the EQ.
Port-au-Prince is a crazy place.
It definitely looks like a war zone. I am glad we are not there (in the city). There is definitely a lot of work still to be done here and plenty for the next group and the ones to follow. I am sure we have them well prepared.
This week has really been a great experience. We came at a time where we could do positive things and hopefully improve the lives of the people here in Haiti. Not only are we helping the patients with the fractures that were left untreated because they were not the immediate priority, but we are also teaching the Haitians here at Double Harvest how to run a hospital from the OR to the nursing floors.
I think the greatest effect we can have here is to show the Haitians how to care for themselves and leave a legacy of confident and intelligent people that can help keep the patients in Haiti safe.
I think we are touching the patients here and they are starting to trust us. The head of PIH’s clinic here in Haiti brought a well-dressed, elderly woman with him today to our clinic and asked us to evaluate her hip because she was a dear friend of his. I also received the ultimate compliment today.
A little Haitian boy we have been taking care of with a broken arm and leg presented me with a starburst candy, he said, “for you.” Of course I ate it and told him “Umm…tres bien” while rubbing my tummy. Receiving a bon bon from a child in Haiti is the ultimate compliment because candy is like gold here.
Sadness is still a part of every day life as we go through our days. From the children we see with life threatening diseases in their end stages because treatment was not available soon enough to save them, to the stories of loss of loved ones and homelessness. Despite all this the Haitian people have an amazing spirit and resilience. I feel I have been privileged to be here and I thank all those before me who helped build this center of orthopaedic and medical excellence in the middle of a farm in Haiti. I also thank the West Michigan community, and my colleagues and family for supporting us all in this endeavor and for allowing me to experience this first hand. It has been a week I will never forget.
See ya soon