A doctor writes about his first day in Haiti

by Jonathan Crocker, MD

From Cange, Central Plateau

We arrived at Cange, in the Central Plateau, the heart of operations for Partners In Health/Zamni Lasante, yesterday. As we expected, things are incredibly busy. People are still arriving from Port au Prince. Those who have been fortunate enough to survive their injuries this long are now running into complications of wound infections, some of which have turned septic, and venous blood clots (from immobility and trauma).

Patients have completely filled the hospital and we have set up makeshift wards in a nearby church and school. We have surgical and non surgical personnel working tirelessly. We are doing lots of wound evaluation, injury stabilization, and post-op care. We are planning to get the more complicated surgery cases out to the MERCY ship when it arrives in Port au Prince, hopefully tomorrow. We are also assisting in provision of acute care issues for the other, non-trauma patients on the wards here.

Patients are dazed. The disruption to their families and lives is beyond description. Many of our injured patients are not mobile, have few resources, have no home to return to, and many have lost their entire families. We care for their wounds. We listen. We grieve with them.

And yet amidst this darkness, there are rays of hope. Today a one day old baby girl was brought in, after being born on the streets of Port-au-Prince with clubbed feet. Her mother suffered lower extremity fractures in the quake and couldn’t really move, but labored successfully, lying adjacent to the rubble of her home. The parents were so worried about the child that the baby’s father made his way to Cange with the child because he knew he could find care here. The baby will be casted and staff here will be shown how to recast her as she grows.

The Haitian medical staff of Partners In Health/Zamni Lasante and survivors of the quake are working with unimaginable valor and dedication, as many of them have lost several or most members of their family. And yet they remain here, working tirelessly to provide care for others. They are the true heroes. Those of us fortunate enough to be here to contribute to the immediate relief efforts labor by their side with complete humility. We are in awe of their strength, compassion and dedication.

Jonathan Crocker is an internal medicine physician. This post was originally published in Running a hospital.

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