Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sunday, February7th 2010_____________________________________________________________

By Edward Rawson


Time is the distance between being here and being there.

Time is the thirty years of my life.

Time is the space between the day my grandparents opened HAS and now.

Time is the moment a baby's departure from a mother's womb gives way to its first breath

Time is a fleeting moment, a single breath, and a life time of breathing.

It is eternal and it is momentary.

Time is an instant as much as it is a lifetime.

Time is the essence of life.

Time is passing right now.

Time is one hundred thirty heart beats a minute; twelve breaths per minute.

Time is an hour; its sixty minutes; its three thousand six hundred seconds.

How many foot steps every hour?

That is time in various measurements.

It can be measured in a million ways and quantified in a million more.

Multiply that by another million more, and that is how many ways time can be felt.

Some would say its been a long time since the Jan 12th earthquake rumbled the earth of Haiti.

Others would say its only been four weeks since it destroyed the lives of millions.

How do you measure the time since you had your leg? How do you measure the time since you saw your child for the last time? How you measure the time it will take for skin to grow over the exposed muscles in your arms? How do you measure the time since you saw your house crush your leg and killed your son? The house that you cherished. The house you built with your own hands. The place you raised and nurtured your family. The house that took all that from you when it fell. How do you measure the time a country will take to heal?

How do you measure that time laying in a bed staring at the ceiling, listening to the screams across the room as the nurse removes the dressings on other patients wounds? How do you measure the next patients barking, crying, wailing? By the scream? By the tear? By the prayer?

How do you measure the time until its your turn? Until the anticipation gives way to your own reality? How do you measure the time that it will take for the skin around your amputated leg to grow together closing the wound; Closing the chapter in your life when you walked; When you skipped?

How do you measure the time until you learn to walk again? How do you measure the time until you will never learn to walk again; Never see him again; Never hug her again; Never know where they are? How do you measure the time it takes to stop crying? How do you measure the time it takes to take your last breath? How do you measure the time you will spend watching until they take theirs?

Today I walked the halls of Hopital Albert Schweitzer with a team of orthopedic surgeons who just arrived from Atlanta. I thought of the time since I had last seen Dr. Guy. I thought of what he must have done since I had last seen him. I thought about the time he and his team will be here. One week. What will they do? What will they be able to accomplish? I saw determination in their eyes. I saw confidence. I could see the sight of blood and open skin was no stranger to them. The dozens of external fixations posted through skin into setting bones, the x-rays, the gauze, the, fear and hope in their patients souls, their trauma.... This was where they lived. This was their territory. They spent their lives honing in on their ability to see this, and know just what to do, and how to do it. They were embarking on a week of healing.

As many times as I have walked the halls of HAS, the sight of injuries is never something I have totally gotten used to. Or maybe I've gotten used to it, but it still makes me uncomfortable. In the last weeks I've seen all too much of it. Every time I see a woman's pink muscle exposed again, and cleaned again, while she winces in pain; every time I see large metal posts sticking through the flesh, clutching to healing bones, I feel it inside me. It hurts me to watch. I feel pain inside of me because I can't grasp the pain they feel inside of them.

Today I became all to conscious of my own feet. I have stood on them billions of times. I have walked so many steps, ran so many more. All moments. Millions of moments that string together, and in the cluster of them... I can't remember a single one of them. They are lost in a sea of countless seconds, minutes, years and decades. Today I felt my feet like I never felt them before. I watched as the Atlanta team of orthopedic surgeons pulled the skin together around the place where a woman's leg once was. They talked calmly about a strategy to get the skin to close around the stump. To heal. To permanently close. Her foot was not there. she could not and will not feel it ever again.

I stood there staring blankly, at this calm group of doctors, and I began to feel my feet. I wanted to hold on to that feeling and never forget it. I had never been more thankful to feel myself standing.

I looked at the face of the woman. She had gotten over it to some extent. She had morned her leg by now. She was coming to terms with it. As thankful as I was for feeling my foot at that moment, she was more, because she knew she was breathing. She was alive. She made it. Not everyone did and she was being cared for by people who knew what to do. She had been cared for over the last few weeks now. Weeks which must have felt like an eternity. Weeks where she has still not healed but has begun to. Weeks where she stared at the ceiling and waited. Waited the time it takes to get better and to accept ones new reality. A reality which was delivered in a few short seconds. A reality you share with a nation of people.

She wasn't alone. In that same room still laying in their cots were others with broken legs, broken arms broken cheeks... broken spirits. The sight of blood was becoming familiar to all of them in this room. Sounds of pain were becoming as regular as their own breath. And it is the same in the next room, and in the halls, and in the courtyards where families watch and heal together.

The sight of doctors was even more familiar. What does it feel like to be in good hands? How do you balance the fear of the unknown with the faith, that this man and this woman standing over you, know you have nothing to fear but fear its self? How do you measure the time it will take to accept that? How do you measure the time it will take you to realize that these people saved your life? They saved all these lives, and they were here for you when you needed them most. How do you measure a lifetime of gratitude?


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