CIR Haiti Watch: Day 3

A team of CIR physicians is volunteering in Haiti this week and CIR Communications Coordinator Erin Malone will be reporting back, sharing photos and reflections. Check here daily through August 24 for updates. Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5 

I started out day three bright and early at 7 am shadowing Dr. Patty Loo in the ICU and Med Surg B. After a quick tour, I round with her.  She tells me about a patient for whom little history is known.  What staff knows is that he was thrown from a horse; he arrived with a fractured pelvis but was now stable.  In the ICU she tells me of a patient that arrived in critical condition after a motor vehicle accident the night before. The staff had to intubate him but he was also in stable condition at the moment.  I continue rounding with her before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Later in the day I head to the spinal cord unit.  During our orientation tour, Scott, the volunteer coordinator and spinal cord therapist, tells us that this is one of the more self-sufficient units in the hospital as it no longer requires volunteers.  When I arrive, family members are helping patients with their daily therapy. As I observe the room, it is clear everyone there (staff, patients, and patients’ families) are quite close. The families of patients move around the room helping everyone, regardless of whether they are related or not. Scott is in the room and introduces me to Francois Jocelyn, a translator and spinal cord therapy technician.  He confirms that the unit is indeed like a family. They have game nights and karaoke and have gone on outings to the museum together. Staff and patients even worship together each Sunday.

Francois came to Bernard Mevs as a translator shortly after the earthquake when the hospital was still set up in tents.  Like many other staff in the hospital, his initial experience with the hospital has transformed into a career. When the hospital moved to its permanent location, he continued working as a translator in the spinal cord unit and started learning how administer therapy to patients. He’s now serving a dual role as translator and technician.

After visiting the spinal cord unit, I stop by the sewing program in which many of the patients in the unit participate. A family member losing the use of their limbs can have a devastating effect on a family’s financial stability.  Many of the patients that come into the spinal cord unit were already struggling and now find themselves unable to continue in their trade.  The sewing program aims to provide a new skill set to help keeps patients and their families afloat. I speak with Regine, the instructor as well as  Carole, a patient in the spinal cord unit and her son Sanders.

I finish the day shadowing Dr. Mathieu in triage and the ICU. When I arrive, I find her attending to a patient who was injured in a car accident.  There is severe swelling on one side of his face but without a CT Scan she is unable to tell if he has sustained any fractures.  She only has his x-ray at her disposal so she decides to refer him to an orthopedic surgeon.  The difficulty is tracking one down.  Specialists are difficult to come by.  However, this patient is fortunate. Dr. Mathieu is able to locate an orthopedist who can see the patient the next morning.

I spent several more hours with her as she attended to patients in the ER and ICU.  The night was largely quiet because all of the beds in the small hospital were full. A fact that frequently frustrates all of the volunteers. The hospital has a great reputation as a trauma center and far more patients than the facilities can handle.  Patients from all over the capital and into the countryside show up at the gates hoping to receive care but many have to be turned away or referred to other facilities due to lack of space.

–Erin Malone, CIR Communications Coordinator

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