EMAIL FROM HAITI
WARNING: This isn't funny. It's an email sent to a friend of ours by a young American doctor from Miami who's involved in the relief effort in Haiti. The response to the tragedy has been amazingly generous. But they still need a lot of help down there.Dear Family and Friends,
I am so humbled and touched to see all of the kind words that have circulated via email and phone and Facebook regarding my trip to Haiti. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I am almost embarrassed by the outpouring of support because I really don't feel that I did that much. Certainly nowhere near enough.
The situation in Haiti is dire. We've all heard about the unconscionable number of deaths, upwards of 100,000. Port-au-Prince is a city of rubble, human remains, human waste, homelessness, orphaned children, and disease. I can't begin to describe the injuries sustained and their anticipated long term sequelae. The country will not make it out of this catastrophe without our help.
Obviously there are no words to describe what I experienced over the past few days. 24 cases in 48 hours, 13 of which were amputations for crush injuries resulting in gangrene, or infected open fractures, adults and children alike. It is an ugly but necessary aspect of saving patients from septic shock and death. All extremity surgeries were done under regional anesthesia (numbing of the main nerves to the leg or arm with long-acting anesthetics), as we had no oxygen and no ventilator machines. Thank Heaven for the UM regional anesthesia team led by Dr. Ralf Gebhard. No tourniquet. No lights in the operating room (used camping headlamps). No running water. No formal sterile processing of instruments (bleach and betadine).
Despite the conditions, I'm happy to say we have not lost a single patient in the makeshift OR suite. People put their egos aside and did what they had to do. I was deeply humbled by and in awe of the people around me. It wasn't just the surgeons: the medical and pediatric teams worked around the clock. Considering how critically injured some of these patients are, the mortality rate at the UM facility has been astoundingly low (somewhere around 2%). This includes people rescued out of buildings on Day 7, and speaks to the quality of care being delivered. In total, some 300+ patients have been treated at the UM field hospital.
The care that has been delivered so far, while impressive, is a mere drop in the bucket. However, because of the number of corporate and private donations, our capabilities are likely to increase exponentially with every day that passes.
Dr. Barth Green has tremendous contacts and organizational skills, not to mention a heart of gold. Alonzo Mourning was at the UM camp over the weekend and again yesterday. The ortho guys tell me that before I arrived, Zo was helping them apply splints and change dressings. He has donated $1M toward building a new air conditioned field tent hospital. I flew down on a private jet owned by a businessman who is not only flying staff and med-evacuating the most critical patients to Miami on his plane, but paying for the fuel and crew out of his own pocket indefinitely.
Perhaps most personally moving of all, last night I arrived home to find out that my family's business, Med Lab Supply Company, had donated a Siemens C-arm fluoroscopy unit that is on its way to the field hospital. This is a tremendous step toward being able to properly treat fractures.
Despite this early support, there is a lot of work to be done, and there are still major logistical issues to getting personnel and equipment down there in an organized fashion. Project Medishare and the University of Miami are able to be effective in the aftermath of the earthquake because they had a strong presence in Haiti before it happened. UM faculty and residents are able to rotate traveling to Haiti to deliver care at the hospital, which is securely located on the United Nations compound. I plan on returning soon as my professional and family responsibilities allow.
These poor people. They are so destitute. The conditions are horrid, and yet their spiritual strength is unshaken. It's going to take a long, committed, and expensive effort if they have any hope of recovering what little they had before all of this happened.
If you have already made a donation, thank you. If not, kindly consider making one by joining my fund raising team on the Project Medishare website.I will end on a positive note. On my way home yesterday, I was at the Toussaint L'Ouverture airport and was approached by two women from a U.S.-based adoption agency to serve as an escort to a Haitian orphan. I flew back with a 17 month-old baby boy and met his adoptive parents at MIA. He literally became a U.S. citizen in my arms. Totally mind blowing. You will all be amused to know that when the girls from the adoption agency approached me, the baby (Paxton is his adoptive name), was of course a perfect angel. But the minute we got on the plane he turned into a little maniac! He was wild but adorable. I'm so psyched for him and his new life.
Thanks again to you all.