A Nurse's Report From Haiti Earthquake
A team of VT Nurses, EMTs, and paramedics from Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT, members of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (AFT), are organizing donations and groups of volunteers to go to Haiti in the coming days, weeks and months to help with the relief efforts. Below is a report from Mari Cordes, RN from the amazing first group of Fletcher Allen nurses and providers who are in now in Haiti. The Vermont Workers' Center /JwJ is proud that Mari is also a major leader in the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign.
After much effort organizing transport, gathering more supplies and continuing to develop very important infrastructure and network for this and future teams, working with the Cruz Roja in the Dominican Republic, communicating with Partners in Health in Haiti and our own reconaissance team that struck out ahead of us yesterday, we have joined the rest of our group in a large medical compound in Jimani. Jimani is a border town with Haiti on the western side of the Dominican Republic.
The compound has been established in an area that appears to belong to a church mission. There is a chapel, a larger 2 story building apprx 4000 sq ft. for supplies which currently is the command center and kitchen with food for volunteers, and another building about the same size as command center, called the orphanage.
The orphanage and the chapel are being used for patient care and surgical areas - Dr.s Charrash and Greenhouse performed 8 procedures today in the orphanage, including surgical edebridements. There is also a large tent for med surg care.
I don't yet know how many patients there are but we think more than 500 just in this compound. There are other ORs set up in Jimani as well, but what our recon team learned yesterday is that they are very chaotic. A major part of the chaos in all of these areas and in parts of Haiti is related to the fact that groups of surgeons from Puerto Rico and other countries flocked in to perform very necessary surgeries, had no nurses to provide post surgical care, and had to leave the patients on their own. There are not enough ORs for all of the surgeons, and they were fighting amongst themselves for control of them (of course not our docs). One of the co-directors of this outpost is a Nurse Practitioner - who with her Family Practice MD husband have lived in this area and provided health care to the Haitians for 12 years - said she wouldn't mind if she never saw another surgeon again, the situation was so bad. She said that they were desperate for nurses.
They are incredibly grateful that our team is here; we've already demonstrated to them a high level of skill and integrity, as well as a commitment to work with them into the future by rotating relief teams into the compound. They are relieved that we are completely self sufficient, and incredibly well organized and supplied with selfcare items (e.g. food and water) and telecommunications. They repeatedly called our group "a blessing".
Part of our team is already at work on 12 hour night shifts; the rest of us are resting from the long hard drive with our two rigs across the D.R. (if any of you have driven in a developing country, especially in a border area, you can probably imagine what the roads are like!) - and we'll take the next 12 hour shifts.
Just as we were pulling into the compound and greeting our dear dear Bill Charrash, David Greenhouse, Jeremiah ......and Brian......, an aftershock occurred - terrifying the Haitians in the buildings, causing an instantaneous mass exodus of patients from the 2 story orphanage including 3 patients jumping off of the balcony causing spinal injury and two fractures. Family members - all of the patients have family members with them - were dragging matresses with patients on them down the stairs. We jumped in and helped move patients out of the chapel as well and under the large tent because everyone was so terrified to be in a building.
Most of the patients have crush injuries and amputations. The patients have external fixation, fasciotomies ..... including children. Nearly 100%, according to one of the coordinators here, have some sort of tissue infection because they did not have post operative care. We are concerned about bacterial resistance, too, as the antibiotic administration was very irregular until command center was able to begin establishing standard of care routines for patient care. The NP director has me in line for probable PICC placements on patients that will require Vanco, Ampicillin, etc. - she said that patients arms are getting very chewed up from the meds they are getting. I'm also very concerned about sepsis, and am strategizing providing family members with many alcohol prep pads and swab caps and employing them to guard every access of their loved one's line.
Bill and David were instrumental in creating significant order in pre and post surgical care in the orphanage - they created a wound care center out of chaos. They insured that patients had a translator so that the surgeons could describe what they were going to do before they did it (which definitely has not been standard routine, on top of many of the patients having experienced surgical procedures with minimal or no anesthesia.)
We are so incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing amazing team here, and all of you that are supporting us in your own way (prayers I think must be helping, too). All of us are In very good spirits, everyone gets along fantastically, everyone is very honest and respectful to eachother, and each of us has important and highly relevant skills and experience to bring to every aspect of this mission. We have succeeded in forming the kind of bond with each other that is absolutely essntial in successful disaster management.
But by far - WAY far, the Haitian people are the most amazing of all. They model for us over and over incredible perseverance and hope, even as hell descends upon them again and again. Family members attend to one another so patiently. They are often singing. The children are so beautiful; and yet it is hardest to witness their suffering. Many have a blank look in their eyes that is very painful to see.
It is getting late, and I must sleep and prepare for another long day tomorrow. Know that we feel your love, compassion and support, and it is incredibly important to us, especially because it is helping the Haitians so significantly.
Salud y Solidaridad,
More response to crisis in Haiti: Donations can be sent to support Vermonters efforts in Haiti at www.vermonthaitiproject.org or also the amazing efforts of Partners In Health: http://www.standwithhaiti.org