Monday, February 8, 2010

Help for Haiti - 3

The continuing story of my friend Charlene - an ordinary woman (well, I think she's pretty great) who decided to fly to Haiti a few weeks ago to help wherever she could. She has no real medical training (though she is a mom!). These are her emails back to the states during her trip.

Bonjour, What a day. I have lost track of what day of the week it is or how many days we have been here but we had a great day. We got the hospital this morning and began our rounds of wound care and then a new team arrived with a plastic surgeon and orthopedic surgeon along with an anaesthesiologist! That kicked everything in high gear and we began triaging patients for surgery. Assisted with a femur surgery which ended up putting the woman in an almost entire body cast ---- that was interesting to say the least! I just felt so bad for her.... It is so hot here and to be in a body cast is just unimaginable to me but then any kind of a cast is unimaginable to me with my claustrophobic tendencies!

Anyway we collectively set many broken bones and casted people most of the day.

Tomorrow we have many surgeries scheduled. These wounds are unfathomable to me -- but then this is clearly not my normal environment either! But the good news was that the doctors feel certain that they can help most of these people without the need for any more amputations - which is such great news. Even if they are not able to give them full use of a foot or hand, they can save them which will make life much easier for them than being an amputee.

God is just so good. His mercies are new every morning and so evident. The people are most appreciative of everything and anything that we can do for them. The hospital we are working in has now been designated as the hospital to transfer patients to for orthopedic work or plastic surgery so tomorrow in addition to the surgeries scheduled, we expect that we may begin seeing new patients arriving as well.

There is an OR in the hospital but most of the bone setting and casting was done outside in a UNICEF "mash-type" tent. It is just amazing to see how everyone is working together no matter what their profession or area of specialty. I must say that there are probably few people who realize that my area of expertise is making vegetable casseroles and organizing/administrating but hey, I seem to have them fooled into thinking that I am an ER nurse!!!! LOL

Thank you all sooo much for your prayers. They are just so evident to us. For those who know me best it will shock you to realize that I have not cried once....until today. We were tending to a 9 year-old boy who has a badly broken leg. His mother was sitting by his side and crying.
Through interpreter we came to realize that this young boy is one of 4 children and her other 3 children were all killed in the earthquake. My heart just broke for her. I guess it is the mother instinct that just leaps out of your body to comfort another when their child is hurting.
The fear of her son having surgery was just overwhelming to her. As it turned out, we did not operate on him today but will be doing that tomorrow morning. We prayed with the mother and although she did not understand our words, I know that she realized what we were doing and was appreciative.

Busy, hot and tired so we will eat dinner (chicken and rice!) and get to bed for an early start tomorrow. Blessings to you all at home and for continuing to do what you are all doing where you are to help these hurting people.

Au Revoir,


Today was very fulfilling to say the least. Our team worked with the two ortho surgeons all day and basically just brought people through the OR all day long. It was really nice to be able to see these patients who we started with by keeping their wounds clean to proceed through with surgery to help them the best as possible. We did mostly casting - some just legs and some full body casts. The full body casts just freak me out to be truthful.... beside the fact that I am claustrophobic and can't imagine having any type of cast but to be put in a full body cast in this extreme heat for 3 to 6 months is just unimaginable to me... But the people are so appreciative of the help they are receiving.

We have clicked well these ortho surgeons and anesthesia nurse from Hope for Haiti. What a great group of people. We have all bonded well with each other and it is enjoyable working side by side with them. We used a Craftsman power screw gun today to remove some pins as well as to use it to implant some pins into broken legs and hands. (Maybe Sears will donate some more to the cause!) Then there was the first patient who had a cast on that needed to be removed and recasted and you should have seen his eyes when he saw a Ryobi power circular saw coming toward him!

The doctor (who is from Maine and has this wonderful accent) looked at him and said what is the problem? So Bob replied to the Doc that what would you think if you were being wheeled into an operating room after being surrounded by amputees and then saw a power saw coming toward you? Well, we had a chuckled and then tried our best to reassure him through our interpreter...

The young boy that we spoke of from yesterday came through his surgery just fine and his mother was so thankful and appreciative for "saving" her only child left. After the surgery the boy was all smiles for the rest of the day.

Many of the patients have been in the hospital and after surgery today we were able to release many to their "homes". Most of these people are from Port Au Prince (PAP) but are now living with other family or friends in the town where this hospital is located. We felt as though we were making good progress today and began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. When we finally walked out of the hospital today we stopped by the tent outside and saw sooo many additional patients who haven't even really been on our radar screen yet. There is so much devastation here that it is just unbelievable.

Thankfully, the organization we are working with just got word today that there will be 3 more ortho surgeons arriving to help here next week. They are coming from California in a private jet. This is great news to know that there will be more physicians coming to help once we leave with the Hope for Haiti. One of these physicians is apparently friends with Kobe Bryant and he may be coming with them as well to just at least see what is going on here in Haiti.

We had some crutches arrive today, but they will be handed out in no time. They will be gone by tomorrow morning with many more people still in need of them. This is a BIG need here right now and in the days to come. One man, who has been alone and without any family with him at all, upon receiving his crutches was so happy. Bob got him up and taught him how to use them (thanks Glenn for the lesson) and he took some steps followed by a great BIG smile and appreciation for the ability to walk again.

The next thing that will be needed here within the next month will be Rehab Therapists. By then all the surgery that can be done will have been done. There will be a large need for orthotics, and so much follow up rehab therapy. Many of these people are leaving the hospital with their xrays in hand and told to go to a clinic being run by Hope for Haiti because the hospitals will still be busy with patients and they are just not set up to handle this type of follow up. We asked tonight how much money a nurse makes here and were told that a nurse would make about $300.... a year!!!

Tomorrow is our last day in the hospital -- which is frankly sad in many ways. We have really become attached to these people and feel such responsibility for their care. But know that we can't stay and need to come home too. There will be time to come back if the opportunity presents itself.

Not sure of how we are getting home specifically but it is not looking like we will be going through PAP and catching a military plane. They are working on getting us on a private jet which will get us back to Florida and then we will need to make arrangements to get home from there. But we will figure it all out one step at a time.

So, for now, Au Revoir


PS. I have no idea why she signs her emails "Bonjour" and "Au Revoir" - she's not French that I know of - but it's rather charming. ;)

Thankful for the skill of doctors, and make-shift nurses like Charlene as well!


  1. Bon Jour and Au Revoir is used because we were in Haiti where they speak French (Creole) so that is the language we were trying to embrace while in Haiti.

  2. This is a moving story. I'm amazed at what all she's done. Inspiring!



Chime in.