02 Feb 2010 Tuesday, in Haiti
This will be a quick update, because I suspect that I would be asleep long before I could even summarize our entire trip.
We’re in the ‘Blanchard’ or ‘Terre Noir’ neighborhood, perhaps a mile north of Cite Soleil – in Port au Prince. The clinic building where we are working survived the earthquake in remarkably good shape. It’s in a walled compound that also contains a 1,000+ seat church and a small school. The school is basically a loss, and the church has a large crack from floor to ceiling on the two side walls. The tower that holds both the satellite dish and the water tank is badly damaged, but standing. We suspect that re-filling the water tank would push it over the edge.
Our clinic is providing mostly ambulatory care. Everyone here is in tremendous emotional stress. The majority of the city are sleeping on the streets, and anyone who we can get talking has lost friends and family just a couple of weeks ago. For perhaps 75% of the patients, we’re really providing a friendly face, some painkillers, mild sedatives (benadryl) to help with the nightmares, and so on. A chance to get out of the sun for a few hours and have a couple of cups of clean water is probably a bit of help in and of itself.
That said, we’ve unequivocally saved several lives. We had a man collapse and begin to seize with what was most likely meningitis on Sunday. The doctors started IVs, maintained his airway, and managed to stabilize him. The hospitals refused him, so we wound up having him driven to his house. He came back the next day, walking and talking – and thanking us.
We’ve been working our orthopedic doctor to the bone – in some cases re-breaking and setting limbs that had begun to heal incorrectly. For these folks, we have conscious sedation, which is a real benefit. Still, the screams are quite something.
For my part, I spent a couple of hours yesterday giving two liters of water with rehydration salts to a severely dehydrated girl. One tiny sip per minute, so she wouldn’t vomit it back up. I spend most of my time working in the pharmacy – dispensing medicines and running the few lab tests that we can do (urinalysis, glucose, hemoglobin, and pregnancy).
We’ve seen perhaps 720 people in three days, starting out slow and ramping up to about 270 per day, today and yesterday.
Perhaps a future post can describe the incessant helicopters, and how we’re clearly on the edge of a massively devastated city. For now, food has arrived.