Below is a letter from Josh Denson, a Tulane medical student, describing his experiences while providing medical relief in Haiti, and how things have changed since he got there.
Hey all, I figured I’d send a little email about whats going on in Haiti. So I’ve been here almost a week, and things have been changing. The first day we were here was last Saturday night and we started work Sunday morning at the general hospital in Port-au-Prince. The clinic was absolute chaos with people laying around all over the floor. Most of them had either open wounds with broken bones, or missing legs, or were dead already. It really was just crazy. There was no organization, no method to who was seen and when, it was basically if you saw someone you thought was dying, then stop and see if they could be helped. Fortunately, everyday the situation has improved a little. There began to be some organization after a day or two. And then there were two different wards of patients. Everyone was getting surgery mostly, whether it was wound cleaning or an amputation. More and more people have shown up. At first there was like 15 to 20 or so docs and now there is probably over a hundred, but I’m just guessing. So basically over the past 5 days or so, the hospital has gone from just a couple room mess of a clinic, to almost a functioning hospital with a preop area, post op area, operating room, triage, emergency room, ob unit, peds unit, medicine unit, wound care stations, and numerous other places that people can get care. There are people from all over, Norway, Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Swiss, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, Chile, Cuba, Spain, just everywhere, it’s interesting. However, people are still dying and people just don’t have [access] to water and food they need.
For some people I’ll share some of the medical stories I’ve seen. I’ve seen tetanus, we had two patients die from it yesterday. Numerous amputations and any open fracture of any bone you can imagine. Tons of femur and pelvic fractures. I saw one random tumor of some kids are that was the size of a basketball, but not earthquake related. Terrible infections everywhere,,, pseudomonas is rampant with the blue green colors and smells. Many wounds infected and some with maggots in them.
For some people, there have some happy and sad stories. First day I had a boy about 7 show up who had died on his way to the hospital. We were carrying him up to where the other bodies were,,,(on the street a block away) and his mother came up screaming crying,, She uncovered his face and just went crazy. She did her voodoo chanting all the way up. It was sad. We also had good stories. One like 2 year old girl pulled from the rubble after like 9 days, we gave her water and cleaned her, she was covered in debris, but she awoke and started drinking and was sent home later that day. It was good, people called her the miracle baby, but today an 84 year old woman was found under the rubble. Don’t know what happened but i saw her alive and being sent to the USS Comfort. Also today, we had an unconscious woman who we thought had a stroke, but we gave her some glucose/dextrose and she amazingly just woke up and started talking and drinking. She was seizing before, posturing, had a positive babinski, it was really crazy to see. We didn’t have a glucometer so no one knew exactly. There just are a ton of things going on. People getting better, some not. But things are at least looking up i would say. But its definitely not good. The patients here are so unlucky, there just isn’t enough care, people, water, food, and all the above for them. It’s hot, it smells, it’s loud, and it just sucks. I lost my camera, but i have some video. But the clinic is on the news so no big deal. Anderson Cooper has been there the past three days, and I met Bill Clinton, just lots of attention here at the hospital. I don’t know how the other cities are doing though, if anyone knows, please let me know and we can get out to one for a day or so. Wanted to let everyone know what was going on this week and how it really is. It’s safe, there is no danger, no rioting, no shootings at the medical people, we have water, but the patients need it, we have food but the patients need it, there is lots of media and journalism though. Kind of annoying. There are still aftershocks. there were two today, they are a little scary, but thats about all. People tend to go about their business after a little shock. Well, I got to let other people use the internet while we have it. If anyone has any questions or wants to know more just email me and I’ll answer you personally. Just updating everyone on what’s going on. If y’all are debating on coming to help, I would recommend it b/c there will be tons to do here for months at least. If anyone wants to build a house for a guy whose been volunteering and helping here with me let me know, he has three girls and no home but he’s a carpenter and just need money or supplies to build some home. Thats about all I can say for now, hope some of you find this info interesting. Don’t let the media build up any gossip. Hope things are going well at home. who dat,,