Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Experience in Haiti

by Heather Kline, P.A. - C, MMS
Sinai Hospital Department of Orthopedic Surgery

After I heard about the Haiti earthquake on January 12, I felt compelled to do whatever I could to help people there. I knew going in what needed to be done, but never realized the full impact of disaster relief, or how it would affect me.

I went down to Haiti with a group called Project Medishare. It is sponsored by the University of Miami and has done medical missions to Haiti since 1994.

We arrived on midnight, February 3. We stepped onto the tarmac and I was immediately met with U.S. Army soldiers with M-16s. At this point I'm thinking "what did I just get myself into?"

The airport was nothing but a broken-down abandoned building in the middle of the airfield. We quickly realized that we had to unload the plane of all the bags because we were the only people.

Once we arrived at the camp, it was mainly composed of four large tents. There was an adult tent, a pediatric tent with operating room (pictured at right), a sleeping tent for staff, and a big supply tent. A pediatric patient is pictured above left.

Overall, the camp was well equipped with supplies and equipment. We had several X-ray machines, central sterile, pharmacy, outpatient wound clinic, a functioning operating room, showers and porta-potties. The main problem we found was lack of organization, which was mainly due to the lack of staff.

While in Haiti, I worked most of the time in the operating room, scrubbing into cases and running the operating room board. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best people I have ever met. We had a staff of about 75 people from all areas of the country; and it was the way health care should be, with no divisions and everyone working together to do what was right for the patient. It was health care in its truest form. We were able to complete many surgeries, including amputations, fracture care, skin grafting, debridement of wounds, external fixation and emergent injuries.

One of the best experiences of my trip came when they brought a young man into our ICU/OR. He had survived for three weeks under the rubble. He was walking to the market when the quake hit and was able to live by eating the groceries that he was carrying. The last several days he was under the rubble, barely alive, he said a “woman in a white gown brought him water and food” until they were able to dig him out. Despite his mental anguish, he was so appreciative and offered to pray for us. He truly is a remarkable man. I was also able to make a cot every night for his mother and told her she would never have to wake up without her son again.

I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to help the Haitian community. I plan to go back during the summer, with several of the same staff. It is difficult to comprehend how truly fortunate we are until we visit Third World countries. On the left is a picture of people waiting in a long line to get rice following the earthquake.

We are lucky to born into one of the greatest countries in the world. We should be grateful and give to those who are less fortunate. Now is the time to get involved.

1 comment:

Natan said...

Heather, you rock! Haiti was truly lucky to have you! Thank you for sharing your experiences.