Monday, February 15

Update from Haiti via Charles Dubuque

Here is the latest from Charles Dubuque:

Steve Reese’s father Carlos was instrumental in creating the CRUDEM Foundation with my father. Steve is a fellow board member from St. Louis & just returned from a week at our hospital.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time on the ground at our hospital in Milot. It would be difficult to do justice to what I experienced in anything less than a War & Peace email but I will try to give you the Readers Digest version and would be happy to add additional flavor for anyone who wants it.

First, lets say that the trip was the perfect definition of the yin and yang of life. My trip was sandwiched on either end with donated corporate jets that transported our team to and from Cap Haitian. In between those points life was a little bit more challenging. The most appropriate opposite to our flights may be the fact that we encountered a roadblock on the way to the hospital one day that was caused by a dead mule, rotting in the middle of the street, its saddle still attached......

I want to give you a little context on where we are in the cycle of this disaster. As of last weekend, we were essentially transferring out of the first phase of the crisis. Phase 1 was the MASH period dominated by amputations, emergency surgery and chaos. We are now in Phase 2. This consists of wound care, infection control and physical therapy needs. While slightly less chaotic than the first few weeks, it is still taxing and unfortunately may be just the calm before the storm. Phase 3 is what we are desperately trying to prevent - infectious diseases. Sanitation is an enormous issue. Our tent hospital has one functioning water spigot to service over 250 patients. We built one shower while I was there and onsite latrines still do not exist within the tent compound. Malaria, Typhoid and Cholera are lurking issues that we are trying desperately to avoid.

Our facilities are still taxed for both patients and volunteers. Our patient count is at 324 with roughly 60 volunteers. I spent the week sleeping in tents awakened by the local roosters that think dawn comes somewhere around 4:00 am. Days were challenging, fulfilling and exhausting. Here are just a few nuggets from what went on:

A military chopper arrived with one patient, a little boy ( 18 months +/-) with one amputated leg, a t shirt and a wrist band labeled 'baby boy'. They had no other records. The doctor who received the boy was so taken by the child's loss that she immediately felt the need to give him a new identity. Dr Karen named him Jean Pierre and the rest of the staff added the doctor's last name, Schneider, in her honor. Within a few days Jean Pierre was recognizing his name. But how will Dr. Karen explain this situation when she returns home? She is actually Sister Dr. Karen and the convent may have a few questions.
We finally have everyone off the ground! In growing from 70 beds to 400+, we obviously did not have the required facilities. After 3 weeks we now have enough cots for everyone and we are beginning the process of upgrading where we can to beds and mattresses. In that effort, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has been a great partner. In addition to delivering food and supplies they have donated roughly 40 mattresses. They will look a little unusual though, since they came off a cruise ship (three square corners and one rounded!)
Bed sores and infection are a huge lurking issue and can be a death sentence. We are trying to force patients to get up and move but it is a challenge. One day we took a slightly unique approach. We organized all the children who were somewhat ambulatory. We taught them a few songs in English (including a few lines from the Notre Dame fight song courtesy of the surgeons from South Bend) and then organized a parade through the adult wards. When the adults saw what the kids could do it certainly shamed them into trying a little harder and we were able to make some headway. Scenes of this parade are at the end of the video link I have attached at the end. The footage is a little rough, but if CNN would have been there this would have gone global!
Last week we were the first group to successfully fly patients out of the country for treatment since the Idaho Baptist fiasco. We sent out a total of 10 patients with most of them going to Shiners' hospitals around the country. The experience was maddening. The rules of the game were always changing. Ultimately we had to have the Prime Minister approve every transfer since every other agency was pulling a cya, not wanting to be even potentially linked with child trafficking. One of these children flew back with me to STL. The story was on the front page of this morning's Post Dispatch and I am attaching the link below.
The most emotional period from last week also involved the transfer of another child to a hospital in the Dominican Republic. We thought we had all the logistics buttoned up. This girl needed immediate treatment that we could not provide with a remaining life expectancy less than two weeks. She was being coppered from our soccer field to Port au Prince where Dominican officials were to pick her up and take her the rest of the way. Step one went off with out a hitch. But 6 hours later the girl's father approached me and let me know that no one had picked up the girl and her sister and that they were sitting on the tarmac in PaP. I have felt like *&^$ many times in my life, but I have never felt lower than looking into the eyes of a father who had trusted us to take care of his daughter's life and we were letting him down. Needless to say we scrambled the phone lines immediately. We found a way to get the girls to a tent hospital next to the airport and ultimately we did get her to Santiago. What was supposed to be a 6 hour journey took the better part of 2 1/2 days. She made it and I aged a few years.

I could go on with more stories, but hopefully you get the idea. I am attaching two links to the bottom of this email. One is the link to the Post Dispatch story I referenced above. The other is a link to a video that Joe Garcia's team pulled together while we were there. Joe was the chief volunteer physician for part of the week. He ran a team of orthopods from South Bend and they did spectacular work. Please take a look at his piece. If it does not come thru let me know and I will send you another link.

In order to save the size of this email, I will also be sending a second email with just a few pictures.

At the end of the day, I want to thank you all for your support and ask that you continue to remember the people of Haiti. As with all disasters, the press coverage fades, but the need lingers for a long, long time. Thank you.

Garcia Video:

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