Week 2, Day 2 (4th Feb, 2010)
A great plastic surgeon, Dr Johnny Frist, has been working at Baptiste Mission Hospital in the mountains above Port au Prince. Arriving amid the chaos in the first few days after the quake, he says the scene was unimaginable and worse than anything he experienced at his front line field hospital in Vietnam.
Things have calmed down considerably when I visit with 9 of the doctors having left that morning. It is the first time in 3 weeks he has had a chance to rest from the 16 hour days he has been working. The grafting work he has been doing has been incredibly successful with a higher percentage of grafts ‘taking’ than in the US. He is amazed by this and doesn’t really know why.
Patients are being treated now mostly for infections and healing of broken bones. I see an operation of a woman with a deep wound that has come open after stitching and is now infected. They won’t close it again but instead Dr Frist will graft new skin onto the wound.
I also see a baby who has been born 3 months premature. An American/Korean doctor, Dr Song, tries to give oxygen but the baby is so small it is almost impossible. The oxygen content is dropping between 50 and 8, with normal levels being about 90%, the baby already has brain damage and with undeveloped lungs it will never survive in Haiti. A baby born at 24 weeks in the US, would, with specialized medicine and equipment, have a 50-50 chance of survival but in Haiti it would be a miracle. So here the baby is left with basic facilities, awaiting the inevitable. A problem symptomatic of Haiti, an impoverished country with limited medical facilities.
Week 2, Day 3
I’m waiting for Dr Megan Coffee and Dr Steve Keller to arrive at the General Hospital, my first time back since I arrived in Haiti. Megan works with TB patients so I sit well away from the tent of the patients carrying this contagious disease and start writing my trip journal for the first time.
Megan and Steve arrive and I meet the patients who either suffer from TB or HIV, but usually both. These are not earthquake related and some of them have been sick for months. But with the treatment being given here, Megan says she is seeing signs of improvement.
On the way out I see a group of boys playing basketball near the rubble of a destroyed building.
Week 2, Day 5
It’s my 3rd weekend in Haiti so I make a Sunday trip up into the mountain above Port au Prince and the Baptiste Mission I visited a few days ago. On the way up in a tap tap, I notice that there is far less earthquake damage here and the people look as though they are doing what they always do on a Sunday afternoon. Going to market, visiting friends or relatives, and hanging out.
I walk the final mile or so to the top of the mountain and make my way down through rice terraces and vegetable fields. The people here are a lot poorer and nearly everyone asks me for money or food…..I also see a lot of destroyed homes here and the people are eager to show me the damage and have it photographed in the hope that I will be able to do something.