Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feb. 3, 2010

Last night we hung out at the university of Miami tents until about 9 pm. The tents are huge, the kind that a circus would have set up, have wood floors and air conditioning, and are packed full of doctors and patients on every kind of bed for as far as you can see. It's quite a site. They have surgical suites radiology and a pharmacy as well as rehab and a whole tent city next door where the docs stay.

While we were waiting for five spinal patients to come in from cange we met one of the guys who was in charge of setting the whole place up. He was about 55 walked with a limp and was delivering water to sick patients. He told me that he had over 100 combat missions under his belt Now one of the guys who is full time with the crisis response team. I asked him if it was hard setting these places up and he pointed to his cap which read US Airborne and said " not with this... I just walk into the army compound and pretty soon we have everything we need.
I guess that's what has amazed me most about this experience. Instead of planning and strategizing like things usually are done there's this we need to get this done so were just going to do it and figure it out as we go attitude. As he pointed out in a tragedy like this there is no use planning because everything changes so fast.
The patients all made it safely from cange although one of the ambulances broke down so they were delayed. Due to the overflow of patients they did not have enough back boards to bring everybody on so they took doors off the rooms and used those. It was pretty funny because one of the docs was having a hard time tracking down the last door and was worried that they'd kill him when he got back if he didn't have it.

One of the great things about being here is getting to watch as these things come together. There is such a great feeling when one of the serious patients is finally in a place where they can get the help they need.

This morning started out with more of the same as we headed to the Airport where the patients who were flown in last night were finally arriving at u of Miami. Again the docs needed to fly them so they started calling around until the Canadian search and rescue guys agreed. While we were waiting they then needed to find transport from the copter to the hospital which was only about 500 yards but with spinal patients and four of them a tough distance. They made some calls and got two American ambulances to come get them. Incredible to watch these things happen.

We spent a good deal of time at the airport after waiting for the medical director of pih to arrive. She was late so I spent some time talking to our driver about Haiti.

The medical director finally arrived and we will be following g her for a few days. We took her to the general hospital which in just a week looks like a different world. No one sleeping on the street relative quiet and a much lighter caseload. Port au prince itself is starting to spring back to life as can be seen by the horrendous traffic and the trucks of rubble driving through the streets.
We were told that right after the earthquake u til just before we came a large area near the morgue held 900 bodies stacked 4 high and that bodys were stacked like chord wood on the sides of the road. It's quite amazing that the government was able to take care of this so quickly and supports the rumours of mass graves outside of town.

We sat in on a few meetings with the med director Joia and some of the hospital staff. Pih feels that the best way to move forward is to get the medical school back up and running and has agreed to turn a hospital they are building outside of town into a teaching hospital complete with dorms etc. That will function as the med school u til the old one can be rebuilt. Thy hope to have it finished in 9 months but want to start classes asap. It's very like them. Find a problem and fix it.

We then went to the minister of public health and spoke with him for a while but his schedule changed so we will be meeting with him in the morning.

Joia told me that 1 penny out of every dollar that comes into Haiti as foreign aid goes to the government and as a result the government has no power and the NGO's are doing everything. NGOs can't run a country there needs to be a strong transparent government to get things done so they are fighting to change this model. It's interesting to here one of the execs of an NGO say that but she's right. I asked her about corruption and she pointed out that the us govt is corrupt and that doesn't seem to stop anyone. She's got a point but it's not quite that simple.

Two numbers which have struck me are that90% of the schools have been destroyed and over 1 million people are going to need rehabilitation of some sort or other. It's incomprehensible to me how they will get out of this.

One of the nice things to see is that the government is starting to build tent cities with some decent looking tents. These will be good for the short run but when it starts raining in march it's going to be trouble.

We are now back at Aristides compound with the docs sleeping in tents on the ground. A few things I have noticed on a personal level since I've been hear. Not looking in a mirror for over a week is a wild experience and worth a try. You can live on only food bars steamed rice water and plaintains and mangos but it gets really boring. Flush toilets and running water as well as toilet paper are things that should never be taken for granted.

But having said all of that and being utterly exhausted I constantly remind myself that I will be going home soon and for many my reality here would be a welcome step up.

Be thankful for everything you have and do your best to take nothing for granted.

1 comment:

  1. hey dave--glad you're there checking things out and helping as best you can. is there any way to find out exactly which shelter box is the one from shalhevet? that would be great for the kids to safe, debora parks