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Early Morning

Despite setting our alarm for 500 AM so that we could be on the transport for Cange, many of us were awake sooner. The Aristide Courtyard was on the flightline from the airport and between the generators providing light and water and the international air traffic, the night was boisterous to say the least.  The concrete floors and the tents were suprisingly comfortable, but did little to drown out the noise.  At one point, around 4 AM, I stood outside the tent and with roosters crowing and dogs barking, looked into the night sky.  I never realized there were so many stars.

We were all awake by 5 AM ready to depart.  The 21 person van was loaded with the equipment and personnel.  We met Alicia, our Meds-Peds medical student, who would be our PIH [Partners in Health] coordinator.

The ride to Cange was a bit delayed.  We went to gas station which was supposed to be open at 6 AM because it would take credit.  However, after 30 minutes and with no attendant, we made our way to another gas station.  As we made our way through the city, we were struck by the traffic and the hustle and bustle.  Was this “life as normal” or “post-earthquake apocalyptic Haiti”? 

Deafening Poverty

As we made our way along winding paved roads, the sheer impoverishment was deafening.  All of us just stared – pondering what their life would be like.  Eventually, the paving and winding came to a grinding halt as we started on rocky roads – stopping to check the tires on occasion.  Members of team faded in and out of sleep as we anxiously awaited our arrival.

We then entered Cange – a gathering of small “shacks” next to each other – people’s homes and lives strewn in front of us in vivid color. 

Medical Facility in Cange, Haiti

Photo by Samir Mehta

At the Medical Complex

Arriving at the Hospital / Medical complex, we were all impressed by the size.  There were many people awaiting our arrival – since our transportation was to take patients back to PoP and the USS Comfort.

The team from Santa Monica was preparing to depart – three days after their arrival and thoroughly exhausted.  In three days, they had performed almost 40 procedures.  Rounding on their first day took five hours.  Sign-out would be through the Irish Orthopaedic team which was in the OR on our arrival.

We were impressed by the size of the medical compound, the number of patients we would be taking care of, and the ones that we would need to figure out what to do with.

We’re ready to work … it’s only 945 AM.

We’ve gotten a tour of the facility – in disbelief … disbelief of what these people have endured so far, disbelief of the injuries sustained, and disbelief of the conditions here.  However, despite certain limitations, the facility, the staff, and the volunteers clearly care about their patients and their country.  Every single member of the staff has been touched by this tragedy – losing loved ones.  With nearly 130 to 150 patients, 90% of patients (at least) have orthopaedic injuries and of those, the majority are open.  It is staggering.  Wounds are usually open and currently require soft tissue coverage in conjunction with stabilization.  You really take for granted what we are able to do in the States.

 

 

This report was written by Samir Mehta, MD, during his participation in Haitian relief efforts through Penn Medicine in coordination with Partners in Health.

 

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