We started the day early today by filming a meeting of a group of Partners in Health docs who were heading out to set up a mobile field clinic in an area that had seen little help so far. Most of them were Haitian and fairly young and have tremendous pride in knowing that they will be helping their countrymen. It's quite wonderful to see. I rode with them in a bus to the location. They mostly speak French and some Creole and both are lacking for me so we smiled a lot. I did speak a little to one guy who spoke Spanish but I can't quite say what we talked about.
Driving out to the outskirts of the city you can really start to see not only the devastation, but also the poverty. It's like nothing I've seen. There are buildings down everywhere with 4 stories crushed to a couple of feet. The buildings are built so poorly, a symptom of bad poverty and corruption, that they came down in no time. The earthquake lasted 30 seconds according to most people we talked to, and for anyone who has been in one, that's a long time.
The mobile med center was amazing. By the time we got there, they had set up some shelter tents and word was spreading. Slowly people started appearing and began forming huge lines. Each patient is seen by a doc given a care booklet where info is recorded and then sent to the hospital or given mess. The hospital sets back up in a week for follow-up.
At this point most medical stuff is second wave. Wave one was hardcore emergency stuff. This wave is fixing rush jobs from wave one and dealing with the lesser emergencies. Now that they have stopped looking for bodies, things have gone to a more normal pace. We did see a 5-year-old girl who had cut her finger off which was tough, but they took her immediately and sent her to the hospital.
While I have not seen the level of trauma I expected (thankfully), the thing that has amazed me the most is the Haitians. Haiti has this bad voodoo crime aids rap that seems undeserved. The people that we have met have been truly amazing and we've been in what were some pretty rough areas. But of course these are odd times and I've been here for two days. However, the expats who live down here say the same thing. Two examples come to mind. The first was a screw up that could have gone bad. Due to sheer exhaustion one of our cameras was left in a public area where people are living for about an hour. The only reason we found it was because I walked by and saw it. That's a ten thousand dollar piece of equipment left unattended for an hour in a group of people who are homeless and hungry and it wasn't even touched.
The second thing is those tent cities. Thousands of people camping together, no police in sight, and no problems to be seen. And we went to many of them and they were all the same.
As far as food, commerce has picked back up and there are roadside stands everywhere. Now, can you imagine this happening in an American city and there not being violence?
We are bedding down with the journalists tonight, which is kind of funny as many of them are really obnoxious. They view this as just a story and treat the people like props. Very sad. The surgeons we first met were not happy to see us until they realized what we were doing and saw that we were not walking into triage and getting into docs’ ways. Mention Sanjay Gupta to them or Anderson Cooper and they lose their minds. One of them said that Gupta walked into an OR he was operating in with cams and started talking to the surgeons on camera. They told him to get out and apparently he was shocked they didn't want him there. This whole event, like many I'm sure, has been overly dramatized for the sake of who knows what. I don't mean to minimize what happened because it's horrible, but the aftermath has been inspiring. It's an incredible place and the Haitian people are incredible.
One of the things that everyone agrees on is that they hate The UN. They are nowhere to be seen.
The surgeons we met headed home tonight, as the Haitians have taken back control of the general hospital. It's sad because it took an earthquake to destroy the place to get the kind of healthcare that people should have and the equipment to do it.