Friday, February 26, 2010

Help for Haiti

This past Tuesday, my sister left on a medical mission to Haiti. She is the one who is an ER nurse.

She arrived at the St. Damien's Hospital for Children and pitched her tent on the roof of the guest house. She has described difficult conditions and the valiant efforts to bring some order to the chaos. She has assisted a surgical team, started IV's and helped out in the adult clinic. Yesterday, she helped bury the bodies of 40 children and adults with Father Rick from St. Damien's.

As a result of the earthquake, there were many traumatic injuries resulting in broken bones and amputations. Father Rick describes the situation in a letter to Operation USA.

"After weeks of frenetic activity, we are returning to a state of equilibrium. Our hospital had become a trauma MASH unit, as had all other medical centers in Port au Prince that are still standing. We were able to offer about 30 surgeries a day at four sites (two in our hospital, one on our hospital grounds in a tent, and one at the St. Camillus Hospital, which we staffed for the emergency.) Many of these, sadly, were amputations – sometimes two for the same adult or child. 

To give an idea of the size of the problem, it is likely there are about 20,000 people now who have been amputated or who have orthopedic hardware screwed through their skin to the bone. Port au Prince has about 20 Haitian orthopedic surgeons, and visiting teams to Haiti will soon leave. All 20,000 need to be followed closely for removal of hardware, control of infection, reevaluation of the amputation, and of course for artificial limbs and rehabilitation. Obviously 20 surgeons will not be able to handle this load. We have worked closely with the St. Camillus Hospital so as to return our St. Damien Hospital to a pediatric center and to have a growing center for adults at St. Camillus. We hope together to be able to keep good tabs on the patients we have operated on, and hope to be able to provide well for them in the future. 


I watched a few videos about St. Damien's. The level of poverty and hardship, even before the earthquake, was stunning. It is evident that Haiti's recovery from the earthquake will be difficult and require a lot of continued outside assistance.

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