Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The earthquake struck Haiti almost four full days ago.

Here in the Valley, we had little idea of what that entailed; all of the cell phone towers were out, and only later did radio programs begin to tell of the disaster. And then we began to get patients from near the quake zone - all through Tuesday night, they came in a steady stream. And then the same through Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday, Friday, the number of new patients began to decline slightly, and some of the patients were discharged with new crutches and bandages.

But still, patents lie on makeshift beds along all of our hallways, with some families setting up camps in corners and closets to have some privacy. They wait, with great patience and endurance, for their turn to go to the laboratory or the Xray, and then for the operating suite.

Local churches have come through the halls with basic warm meals. The local bank sent fresh water sachets, and the large community organization, ODES, is bringing food for lunch now. No crowding or bickering, just quiet appreciation for the gifts of unknown friends.

Our surgical team has finally been able to take a break as they are replaced by other HAS surgeons who have arrived on campus.

Slowly, the backlog of cases is being reduced, but new cases still come, some of whom were recently taken from the rubble of collapsed buildings, still covered with the dust of dissolving concrete blocks.

Two volunteer teams are trying to get here; the airport is controlled by the US military, and only large humanitarian flights are allowed in. The bottleneck is an increasing source of frustration.

Our medical director, Dr Toussaint, shares with me that we are getting fewer patients, but they are more serious. They have received some care in other medical facilities and then are transferred here because of the lack of materials, electricity and other basics.

We suspect that this may be a future trend, as we have heard from doctors in PauP that there are many patients and few resources.

The clinical team here is heroic; they do not pay any attention to shift times or hours, but are here all through the day and night. I try to tell them how much this means to the patients and to thank them.

One nurse who came in from a distant dispensary shrugged and said "of course, I am here - these are my brothers and sisters."

I am proud to be part of this family which cares so much for each other.
We have heard that news of the disaster and of the work of the hospital has spread, and we are very grateful for the generous support and encouragement which has come from all over the world. It means a great deal to all of us here.