Monday, February 15, 2010

Situation Report: Port-au-Prince General Hospital

The Haiti earthquake of January 12 killed over 200,000 and left an estimated 300,000 injured and needing treatment. Ayal, a licensed practical nurse, EMT and Scientology Volunteer Minister, arrived in Haiti on January 22. A veteran of disaster response, he served at Ground Zero after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, but other disasters paled beside what he saw when he first got to the Port-au-Prince General Hospital.

Doctors were battling to save lives in the Operating Room, performing operations under primitive conditions without anesthetic, sterilization or the most basic supplies or equipment.

After a long day's work, Ayal and Darell, a dentist and trained Volunteer Minister, took on the overnight care of four wards with 40 patients in critical condition. When they entered these wards, patients were lying in beds without sheets, bodies soiled with body waste and blood.

Learning that three patients had died there in the last hour alone, and realizing many of the patients wouldn't make it through the night without care, they worked through the night until the International Medical Corps arrived at 8:00 the next morning. Two patients nearly died that night. One patient pulled his IV out and almost bled to death, the other nearly drowned from a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Night in the wards had other challenges. When the lights failed they were forced to care for patients care by flashlight until army medics gave them chem sticks--plastic tubes that provide light for five hours when broken open.

There were so many patients and so few professional resources, patients families were providing most of the patient care. But food was scarce and not only was there none for the families, there was none for the patients . So the Volunteer Ministers found food and water for the patients and their families.

One night, one of his patients was dying of a major cardiac and respiratory situation. They had no medications or oxygen. Fortunately, that night a Russian doctor and an Emergency Ward doctor who had been a US Army field surgeon were on duty. The two of them improvised, mixing the medications they did have to create the needed effect, and together they kept the patient alive long enough to get him to the US for the surgery he needed to save his life.

One young man on the ward was told if they didn't amputate his leg, he would die. He refused to have the operation-didn't want to live in that condition. Lindeman talked to him, helping him look at his options. In the end he decided he could face it, and he went through with the operation.

In one surgery where he was assisting they missing vital equipment and Ayal used a Leatherman as a clamp to stop a young woman's abdominal bleeding which kept her alive long enough to get her moved to the USS Comfort where she could get the help she needed.

For the past twelve days Ayal and his team have been caring for 50 and 300 patients a night, often pulling 20 hour shifts. The wards are now clean and well lit, and staffed day and night.

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