Saturday, April 24, 2010


Watch as International Medical Relief helps thousands of victims of the Jan. 12th Earthquake in Haiti. Walk through a tent city, hear from locals about their experiences and see what it might be like to volunteer in Port au Prince after a destructive force of nature.
International Medical Relief is a nonprofit organization that provides medical relief and care to underserved and vulnerable people around the world through medical mission trips.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 1 Pictures

Many of you have been asking for pictures. It's taken me a few days to get to them but here they are. What I plan on doing is posting some pictures from each day in a blog for that day. Along with the pictures I will tell a little info. so that you can gain a little more insight into what we did. The following pictures are from day 1. They cover our arrival at JFK, arrival in Haiti, our ride from the airport, as well as our setup at what would be our home base for the week, the Haitian police compound.

This is the team assembling at JFK at 3am to start our journey. Our team consisted of 38 people from doctors to nurses to EMT's to translators and non medical staff.

Arrival safely in Haiti. Who knew how crazy Haitian baggage claim would be?!?!

It's ok though we had a band waiting for us...and hundreds of people outside the airports gates for some reason!

This is us loading all of our luggage into a Tap-Tap. Basically a big
bus but much more colorful and always blasting music. Besides gathering our bags from baggage claim this was quite possibly the most stressful event of the day. We had to fight our way through the crowd (aka the hundreds of people waiting outside the gate) with 70+ oversized bags while everyone begged to carry your luggage for money and would literally take them out of your hands.

Some of our "greeters" at the airport.

An example of what Haitians are now calling "home."

Haitian Pride!

Damage from the earthquake.

The damage is pretty widespread but it's crazy to see a building completely flattened and then see one next to it still standing. I will say though that there is practically no structures that are liveable.

Just your everyday roadside garbage in Haiti. This a pretty typical site and in some areas this would be a "clean" street corner. Which is sad because Haiti is such a beautiful country!

More damage on our drive in from the airport to downtown Port au Prince.

More remenents of the earthquake

One of the many rubble littered streets of Port au Prince. The epicenter was about 7km outside of Port au Prince in a place called Carrefour, a largely residential and very poor commune in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The district has an estimated population of 408,000 as of 2003. It is mostly a bedroom community for those who work in central Port-au-Prince.

Keep in mind this is 8 weeks after the earthquake and little to no clean up or restoration has begun.

Everyone uses "before the earthquake" or "after the earthquake" as a time stamp for references things. I think that will be something that will stick for generations to come.

The outskirts of a tent city. I expected most of the people in Haiti to be living in tents or on the streets. What I didn't expect was for EVERYONE to be living on the streets or in a tent (if they're luck enough to have one).

The view, overlooking the presidential palace, from our luxurious penthouse suite atop the Haitian Police(aka CIMO) compound. And by luxurious I mean a dripping water hose for a shower and a toilet you flushed with a bucket of water, but hey at least we had running water and a toilet!! As far as the palace, the president fled before it collapsed.

A massive tent city across from the presidential palace that was described to us as "once covered in beautiful green grass."

This is the finance building across the street from the presidential palace. During the earthquake the top 14 leaders under the president were all have a meeting in this building. They were all killed. Two sections of this building collapsed while we were there trapping 11 people and sending one injured to our clinic with an open head wound.

This was a building next to the police compound. On one day they pulled bodies out of here and were burning them. A very morbid and sad feeling!

We have arrived at our home for the week, Mission Riscate and are settling in. Mission Riscate is a mission that provides food as well as runs a daily medical clinic which we staffed everyday as well as rural clinics and staffing two hospitals.

This is the main tent for Mission Riscate also inside the CIMO compound where we stayed. The clinics were located below us inside rooms of the police compound. This is a sign outside the General clinic. We also had an OB clinic room, a pediatrics clinic room, and a dental clinic room. At 5:30-6:00am every morning 600 or so people would be waiting outside the gates to the compound to be seen. Staff would begin intake and we would start triage at 8am.

Arrival and setup day was finally over and time to relax before bed. From left, Mike (ER doc from New Jersey), Myra (NP from New Jersey), and Elliott (oral/facial surgeon from Long Island).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 7

Today was our last day of clinics. One team stayed at the mission, one team went to another Delmar clinic, and one team staffed General Hospital. I worked today in the general clinic at the mission. There we see sick patients, and do wound care and surgery. For some reason today we a tons of wound care. I drained an infected above knee amputation on a 4 year old girl, cleaned and redressed numerous other wounds, sutured a guys eyebrow, debreded a fresh second degree burn, and saw the biggest inguinal hernia I have ever seen. Oh, and diagnosed a case of malaria. As you can imagine it was a busy day. Tonight we are spending our final night at the Le Plaza hotel in Port au Prince. The amazing thing about Le Plaza is that inside is a resort style hotel with a swimming pool, air conditioning, and a dinning room with white linen clothes and outside are millions of people with no homes, no food, and nowhere to go. As I look around I see all the staff and I think that all of these people will leave here tonight after being dressed nice, waiting on people and spending there day in a luxurious (by haitian standards) and go home to their families in tents, homemade shacks, on on the streets. It's a very sad but true realization. I leave Haiti really wondering about their future. They've never really had great times but now the quality of life in Haiti has plummeted. How long can they live in tents and in filth? How long will help last, and then what? There is no governmental structure and never really has been. The people look to God and the government to take care of things, but then what? Even if the millions of dollars and aid that has been raised does start getting funneled in where to start? No home are livable. There's just rubble.
I would like to say though that there are some people in Haiti really trying to make a difference. Our drivers/local guides/clinic organizers/everything else men Daniel and Richard were amazing. We pay these guys $40/day to be at our beckoning call and they were. We needed something they got it. They are amazingly hard working and smart guys with enormous hearts. I can't say enough about them. The children at the mission, all of which are orphans, swept and mopped the clinic floors everyday before and after clinic with huge smiles on their faces. They helped us carry our things, they always said thank you, and they made our trip worthwhile no matter what. I cannot imagine the tragedy they had lived and yet they smile and love everyone. The interpreters that helped us everyday were volunteers. they spent 12 hours or more everyday translating for us. Each person basically had their own interpreter for the day. That means 37 people came everyday to volunteer their time and energy to help us help the people of Haiti. Every rural clinic we went to, we had absolutely no problem finding people off the streets to volunteer to help us translate. I think that level of commitment, love, patriotism, what ever you want to call it is amazing. The future of Haiti looks very bleak but I think that it's guys like Richard and Daniel, our interpreters, and those smiling children that will really determine the future of Haiti.
Tonight will be my last blog from Haiti but when I return on Wed., I will be posting a series of blogs that will contain pictures, each with it's own story. I hope to keep these going for a while to give everyone a more visible picture of what we saw and experienced. Thank you for tuning in and thank you for supporting us.

day 6

Today was Sunday, and an off day for the mission where we're staying so we all split out to rural clinics. One team went to Junior Batay's (sp?), a haitian finishing his masters at Duke, who runs a local church/mission. That team also split their day and worked at an orphanage near Junior's church. Junior is a very influential man in Haiti who is drafting a letter to present to the UN on the future of Haiti. The team saw people at his church, as well as the kids at the orphanage. I was on a team that went to a town about an hour and a half outside of Port au Prince called Laigone (sp?). We were told it was a very hard hit town by the earthquake and when we arrived the news was confirmed. Nearly everything was leveled. The good thing is there seemed to be a lot of presence from groups like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. We set up in a local's house, a very nice house at that. There was a fridge, a flat screen TV, and a toilet. Not much else in the house but that's very wealthy by what I've seen so far. I worked with the dental team today which consisted of myself, an oral facial surgeon (Dr. Elliott Seagal) from Long Island, and an ER doc (Mike) from New Jersey. As the number of dental patients increased beyond anyone's ability to handle we decided to set up two chairs. Elliott saw patients in one chair and Mike and I saw patients in the other chair. What you learn quickly here is that what you can do back home is different that what you have to do here. Therefore, Mike used his 2 hours or so of dental training to do extraction. I have to say he did an excellent job and we saw some really rough and interesting dental cases. After a full day we hit the van and headed back to the mission, picking up some mangos along the way. We also stopped at Aventis Hospital to drop of Garrett (premed) so that he could work with Sean, a orthopedic surgeon who had been at the hospital all week doing ortho cases. There we met a little boy named Sebastion. Sebastion was about 6 or so and had is right leg amputated above the knee. He had been trapped in rubble during the earthquake for 3 days. During which he lost his entire immediate family. If you go to Aventis Hospital in Port au Prince and drive through the guarded gates the first person to greet you at the entrance is sure to be a beautiful, smiling little boy named Sebastion. Other than his missing limb and crutches, you would never know that he had experienced such a tragic event and lost so much. When he leaves the hospital he will go live with his aunt in a tent somewhere in the city.

day 5

Have been very busy over the last few days so I haven't had the chance to blog. I am going to use my last night here when I have some downtime to catch up. Saturday (day 5) Lidie and I were both at a rural clinic called Delmar 103. Basically it's like 1st st., 2nd st., and so on but Delmar runs through about 120 or so. We set up clinic in a house that was unoccupied (as almost all houses are now). Lidie and I were working with Dr. Nick Abbey (pediatrician from Colorado) in the pediatrics room. The most interesting cases we saw were a 1 yr. old girl who had been sexually abused. Her mom brought her in because she had left her with an older lady and when she picked her up she was bleeding from her vagina and had been bleeding for a month. After examination we determined that she had been sexually abused. Mom was obviously overwhelmed and we were able to give her some formula and diapers to take home with her. We also had a 12 year old girl who was malnourished and needed a fluid bolus. We also gave her a huge bag of food and supplies to take home. Today it really hit me how much the children of haiti are suffering from post traumatic stress. So many of the kids have such a flat affect and so many came in today for learning problems, lack of social interest, poor appetite. When I came here I expected to see the majority of the people living in tents of on the street. What i saw was "Everyone" living in tents or on the street. Out of the millions of people in haiti, there are so few people with an actual roof over their head.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 4

Last night we received word from the Haitian police that they expected a big political demonstration outside of the presidential palace that had the potential to turn very violent. We decided to not split the team today and all stay at the compound because it could be unsafe to leave. It turned out to be a very peaceful demonstration by some churches with just a group of people singing songs! We were able to see a lot of patients instead with all 37 team members here. I was in the triage/well treatment tent while Lidie was in the pediatric room for her third day. We delivered a baby in the OB clinic and had about five women come in ready to deliver any day now. The finance building across the street had a section collapse today while 15 people were inside lotting. One came to our clinic with some major wounds while the others are still trapped inside. It caused a lot of anxiety amongst the people. We have seen a lot of post traumatic stress in the patients. Some people are coming through with broken bones from the quake that healed broken. The pediatric clinic had a 5 month old who contracted typhoid meningitis at one month old. The hospital here turned them away when they went to the hospital at the time of contraction because they could not pay for the typhoid test. The child is now deaf, blind, completely hypotonic, can't hold his had up, and is constantly febrile. Today was the first time that the mother found out that her child has typhoid meningitis, is deaf, and blind. She was devastated. We were however to give her a tent water, food, diapers, and develop a neck stabilizer, and sling for the mom to carry her baby. Before today she has been sleeping on the streets with him. The mother that had the baby also received the same items because she too had nowhere to sleep. In the hospital here, if you need medicine, IV fluids, or basically anything, your family goes down to the pharmacy, buys it, and brings it up to be given. If you can't afford it you don't get it. The doctors and nurses here also haven't been paid since November because of government corruption so it's difficult to get anything done. One of our doctors has been waiting three days for CBC labs to return so that he can give a lady a transfusion but they have been lost.
We walked around some this afternoon and got to walk through a tent city. All of the parks and open spaces are filled with tents. Very Very few people still live in their homes. On a lighter note we had Dominos delivered tonight! Yes Dominos pizza! With coke and sprite! Grabbed a beer and toke a stroll around the city. It was a much needed break. We have seen about 1,000 a day the last three days between our rural and Mission Riscate teams.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

day 3

Just got a computer with very low battery so i will blog briefly. Landed safely on mon. in a very chaotic haitian airport which i have heard is the norm. Staying a Mission Riscate on the grounds of the haiti police compound across from presidential palace. Destruction is unbelievable. Travel yesterday to Pattionville rural clinic setup in a abandoned school 30km or so outside of haiti. Saw about 550 patients there. Lots of scabies, tinea, and anxiety from earthquake. Everyone everywhere suffering from dehydration. Some severe needing IV some just needing water. The team is splitting everyday with half going to rural, half staying at Mission Riscate, and a few going to the hospitals.
Today I was at Mission Riscate. Learned quickly that here in haiti I am acting as a doctor. Saw my own patients all days treating a few wound care and lots of respiratory problems. The dust here from the rubble is really bad. Lots of vaginitis from poor hygiene. Scabies again. The people here are very happy to be seen by medical staff. The anxiety from the earthquake seems to be calmed some just by knowing that some is helping them. Lots of people, nearly everyone, has no home just tents if they are lucky. They pulled 10 or so bodies out of the building next to us yesterday and burned them. Human bones have shown up around our compund from animals digging them out of rubble. The haitian people are amazing people. So friendly, so gracious, and so well spirited. I fear though that these conditions can break down the best of people. Will try to blog more tomorrow.