Frontline sharing of Haiti earthquake relief work (20/1/2010)


Yesterday I visited Trinite Hospital. There was a small baby, about one-and-a-half months old, lying on her side in her bed because her right arm had been amputated and was covered in bandages. The auxiliary nurse told me her story -- sad and miraculous. She was in the hospital when the earthquake partially destroyed it. Somehow this tiny little girl survived after falling through concrete floors and walls and was rescued from the rubble, though we have no idea where her mother is. Chances are she doesn't have a family anymore. Some people are now selling food in makeshift markets, and there is more traffic in the streets. There's also the regular sound of helicopters hovering. More and more aid organizations are showing up and trucks and some cranes are steadily working through buildings in the city, though who knows how long it will take to dig through all the rubble to find those missing. A man with a gunshot wound was carried in on a stretcher. Two doctors jumped into action, first checking to see if he was conscious, then seeing if he could feel his arms and legs. Even though the gunshot had punctured his neck they determined he was "operable" i.e. that under the limited conditions of our operating theatre (in this case, in a shipment container), the team could still save his life. We're not sure where he got the gunshot from. The patients we are treating will end up leaving our hospital as different people. Many must undergo amputations because their limbs are so badly crushed there's no way of saving them. A colleague, who is on his fourth mission, told me he was amazed because had no idea MSF had the capability to implement the human resources, the logistics, the setup that is required for this kind of emergency. Most amazingly though, is that everyone here, including our Haitian staff, are so singly focused these days on the one common intention: to save as many people as we can.