I arrived in Haiti on Jan. 23, 10 days after the earthquake, and stayed until Feb. 4. The Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia sponsored the flight on which I arrived.
We worked in Petionville, a section of Port-au-Prince, at the Haitian Community Hospital. It was a 50-bed hospital with a 200 patient load. The hospital was so full, people were in tents outside. (Plastic bags with the deceased were outside, too, on the hospitals driveway, because burial was still a problem.) We worked with teams from all over the world, including Germany, France, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Sweden.
We saw mostly orthopedic surgery patients, including many amputations and external fixation (pelvic, arms and legs), as well as patients who had plastic surgery (fasciotomies, skin grafts and debridements.) We had to get immunoglobulin flown in for a patient with tetanus and lockjaw.A 14-month old with bad pneumonia. The baby was intubated immediately, and ICU staff bagged the child until a hospital with a ventilator could be found.
We had no ventilators and only one defibrillator, and it was tough to treat the patients with critical injuries who wound up in the ICU. Those patients were transferred to the USNS Comfort hospital ship, the University of Miami tent hospital or the U.S.
Peggy Guillame, a Haitian PCT at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia, went with me to translate and help with patient care. Peggy lost her uncle in the earthquake, and we were able to visit her family so she could pay her respects.
I learned the story of one of my patients a 22-year-old accounting student through an interpreter. The student was on the fourth floor of a building when it collapsed all the way to the ground. She fell to the bottom of the rubble, landing on her stomach with a large cinder block on her spine and pelvis. The doctors told her she wouldnt walk for two to three months.
The damage in downtown Port-au-Prince was unbelievable. I can only compare it to what a soldier must see in war after a bomb hits a city. Being there in the rubble and treating patients with such injuries on a massive scale it all was surreal.