Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Monday, January 18, 2010

The flow of urgent cases from Port au Prince continues as before except that they are more serious cases. It has been possible to treat and release many of the patients, so slowly the ones who remain are taken off the floor and put on cots, and then to beds.

A surgical team from Miami arrived yesterday evening on a military flight, started to work immediately, and had done a dozen cases by midnight. There is still a long row of surgical candidates in the hallway by the operating suite. The team has provided a welcome relief to the Haitian surgeons, and they are prepared to continue their work through today. They had been stalled in Miami for two days due to the confusion surrounding flights into the Port Au Prince airport.
We are learning every day about disaster medicine; we are a microcosm of what is happening throughout the country, especially in Port au Prince. The clinical demand is astounding; thousands of injured people are seeking care in Port au Prince, and for many it is a race against infection and systemic damages.
We had, and still have, a desperate need for clinical personnel; the surgical team which arrived yesterday has helped a great deal. Our OR nurses have worked as hard as the physicians, and are also in need of a break. More surgeons represent more demand for their services. The Surgery post-operative ward has spilled out into other spaces, but with only a few additional nurses, who are stretched thin.

I hope this comes across not as complaints, but as a description of what life is like on the ground here at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, where the vast majority of our services have been provided by an exclusively local Haitian staff, and are only now getting support from international specialists.

Many of our patients have been in our hallways now for days, patiently waiting for help. We have become good friends and I appreciate their forbearance when I explain why they have not yet had their much-needed surgeries. Their pain is becoming more intense, and they must be frustrated, but they always respond with a smile and an assurance that they are doing all right, when it is obvious that they are not.

Several patients have brought radios. One of the early morning broadcasts play hymns. The patients turn up the volume a bit, amd many people quietly join the songs, from both wards, the halls, the pediatric clinic, which is filled with beds, and the old horse parking lot, which is also filled. Many Haitiams have lovely singing voices and the sound is angelic. For many, it is an inspiration that their faith will help them to endure the pain.
Your collective concern and support has helped to sustain us all in the face of an incomprehensible demand. I, and all of us here ion Deschapelles, send our sincere thanks.

Ian Rawson