Day 2: What Haiti Looks Like Today
The Global Health Haiti Disaster Response Team arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday, Feb. 1, and spent their first day working at the University Hospital. Rakesh Mistry, M.D. and Warren Frankenberger, R.N., two team members from CHOP’s Emergency Department, reached out last night to Global Health Director Rodney Finalle with reports from the ground. The following summarizes what they are seeing:
The 12-member team -- four pediatric emergency physicians, a general ED physician, and seven pediatric nurses from the ED, ICU, and transport teams -- are staying in a tent camp on a concrete basketball court of a community center. Others staying at the compound are volunteer physicians and nurses sponsored by the aid group Partners In Health. The camp is about 30 minutes north of Port-au-Prince.
The damage inflicted by the Jan. 12 earthquake on the country of Haiti, and its people, is readily evident in the destruction seen while driving south to the University Hospital (HUEH), with rubble from collapsed buildings extending into the streets and highways, according to Rakesh Mistry, M.D., a doctor in CHOP’s Emergency Department and member of the Global Health team in Haiti.
Many Haitians attempt to restore a sense of normalcy and people walk the streets as they head off to work. Traffic is heavy. However, entering HUEH yields a quick reminder of the earthquake’s force. The nursing school building in the center of campus is a pile of stone, with known casualties still in the rubble. Several buildings are structurally unsound, forcing nearly all patient care to military and Red Cross tents throughout the hospital grounds. Hundreds of men, women, and children line up to receive care in a setting similar to a MASH unit.
“During our first shift, we moved from tent to tent, looking in on sleeping, and sometimes crying, children,” recounts Warren Frankenberger, a registered nurse in CHOP’s emergency department. “Often, a mom sleeping on the floor beside her child would grab me, plead to me in either French or Creole, to see her child. A perfect stranger with a stethoscope around his neck and a head lamp on becomes someone she immediately looks to for care of her very own child.”
Fortunately, much of the disaster-related injuries have been addressed yielding to the need for post-operative and ongoing medical care. So many children are injured with fractures and amputations. The medical need is great and the resources are minimal or makeshift.
“The pediatric ward remains full of severe orthopedic injuries -- I have seen as many femur fractures as I usually see in two years -- with amputees and complex hand injuries mixed among the patients,” Dr. Mistry said.
As Haiti emerges from the quake-related injuries, the medical needs have shifted towards care of the usual patients that present to the general hospital. Volunteers from several countries now participate in the care of more typical pediatric illnesses, such as pneumonia, meningitis, asthma, and diabetes.
“We continued to move from tent to tent, using our headlights and flashlights to see what is needed,” Frankenberger said. “A humble look at what nursing may have looked like a long time ago; but, here in Haiti it is what nursing looks like today.”
“It has been only 30 hours, and just our second night in Haiti, but we have learned much,” Dr. Mistry said.