UPDATE JAN. 28, 2010: Paul Auerbach, MD, and Robert Norris, MD, have e-mailed a brief description of the medical and cultural experiences the Stanford team encountered while treating earthquake survivors in Haiti. The physicians’ letter is available here.
* * * *
An eight-person team of Stanford physicians and nurses has been providing medical care to survivors of the Haiti earthquake as part of the larger International Medical Corps group. Three of those members have been blogging their experiences working in a Port-au-Prince clinic over the past 10 days.
The two physicians and nurse describe the widespread destruction, constant flow of patients and their frustration at not being able to do more. The reports are both horrific and hopeful.
Over the weekend he reported:
We saw a lot of progress today at the hospital. The surgeons are seeing a decrease in the number of patients that need emergency surgery for crush injuries and fractures, but that doesn’t mean that we are anywhere near a point where less-than-massive resources are needed. There are countless broken bones, deformities, facial injuries, burns and so forth, and we are encountering the sequelae of the initial surgeries that were performed in difficult settings. These mostly include infections that requires wash-outs of wounds and revisions of the prior surgeries. This is to be expected in our situation. The U.S. military has given the hospital tremendous report in facilitating the transfers necessary to the USS Comfort, which is thankfully still involved in this relief effort.
The hospital campus is evolving with some decent structure. We now have a central pharmacy, three operating rooms for adults, one operating theatre (within a tent, as are most facilities) for children, and arrangements for childbirth, children, postoperative patients, triage and emergency assessment, and so forth. These are crowded and extremely busy areas, staffed by dedicated physician, nurse and technician volunteers. We are moving toward 24 hour coverage. We have decent drinking water and food distributions. Phone lines will hopefully begin to come in tomorrow. We may soon have some reliable laboratory testing and do have a small blood bank.
There was great sadness and an unsettling moment as a body was recovered within our compound from under the wreckage of the nursing school. I have a fairly strong stomach, but had to walk away. There are perhaps many more bodies in that location. We lose an occasional patient now, and we are particularly saddened by the deaths of those we have come to know, and have tried unsuccessfully to save.
Apparently, not everyone got hurt in the earthquake. I wouldn’t have known it from what I saw. A young kid was playing with his ball amidst the rubble and I realized that life moves on, no matter the magnitude of the problem. I’m worried that we will move on and forget the external fixtures that protrude from so many legs, or a nation full of amputees and without infrastructure.
Nurse Gaby McAdoo chronicles the treatment and recovery of a 5-year-old boy who was been trapped beneath a collapsed building for nearly eight days on her blog Out Of The Rubble Comes Hope.