January 15, 2010
During the night, additional patients have arrived – some have been carried in on doors, and as we don’t have any more beds, they stay on the door to keep them off the floor.
We sent a truck to buy beds in St. Marc yesterday, and the mattresses and box springs are separated so that more people can have some comfort. Nighttime temperatures are cold at our location in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti at this time of the year. We have placed most of the patients on cots and beds around the corridors, but with the new influx overnight, about 40 were put in the outside clinic areas. They are wrapped in bedcovers which they brought with them, but still are very cold.
As the hospital begins its day, there are lines at the bathrooms and at the outside faucets. Sheets and blankets are carefully rearranged by family members, so that they look neat and clean when the nurses and doctors begin the early-morning rounds.
The hospital was quite full before the earthquake; while some of the patients were discharged, more than 60 patients still remain, and are cared for at the same time as quake victims.
The effort has begun to wear on the surgeons (one is a resident), and on the other physicians and nursing staff. We are searching for local support from doctors whose hospital facilities were destroyed in the quake. A team of surgeons will arrive from Montreal this weekend, but they have to make their way through the Dominican Republic by bus. Later, surgeons from the Peachtree Orthopedic Group from Atlanta will arrive to address some of the more complex cases.
As we sort through the range of medical conditions, we begin to see emerging several patients with special needs, with suspected spinal cord injuries or head trauma, and we hope that one of the members of the groups which are coming will be able to help to set up appropriate treatment plans for these patients.
Our goal for the day is to begin to complete the processing of a number of patients so that they may be discharged. As one of our nurses noted, however, it’s not clear that they will have homes to go to.
As we go about our work, I did take a few minutes to reflect on the fact that yesterday, Jan. 14th, was the birthday of the great humanitarian, Albert Schweitzer, whose mission to bring health care to those in greatest need, provided the inspiration to establish this hospital more than 50 years ago. We are fulfilling the promise to provide care for those who are in the most desperate need.