Subject: Day 3
(sent at 1551 PST today) We absolutely worked our heads off today….too much to tell you, but just a short sample…Greg was suturing head wounds, and I was pushing Ketamine and acting as the anesthesiologist for this fabulous New york Hatian surgeon…. We are doing so much good, relieving so much suffering….We are all very tired, but staying hydrated….These are such beautiful people…not only the US Hatians, but the Haitians themselves….We are the only firefighting team of medics working in this compound, and its regarded as the best in the city, outside the hospitals…
Mrs Beach and Mrs Reimann, you should be so proud of your husbands…I’m humbled to even get a chance to work with them….all the Haitian nationals and the Amer-Haitian medical staff are impressed and grateful. Duce is performing fantastically as our leader, Joe and Brianne are distinguishing themselves as well….
Okay, i’m tired, hungry, and need a sponge bath….Will write more tomorrow moring….chapter two…..somebody please email me and let me know if you’re getting any of these, please….
Once again, let me emphasize, we are safe, tired but very happy, and truly making a big difference in the lives of desperate people…We love all you …
(sent at 0303 PST today): A Northwest paramedic’s view of Haiti (for those of you used to my writing in a slightly more polished form, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This will be raw and unedited. Here in this camp I don’t have time to revise and make my words prettier. You’ll read them as I type them in the spare minutes and seconds I have free)
Its 430 and I’m awakened by the sounds of crowing roosters and semi trucks passing over the pothole filled road that runs in front of our compound. I slept soundly last night, partly because the 30 hour marathon to get here and partly because of the earplugs the earlier team suggested we bring.
It is my first morning in Haiti. We are housed in what was an amusement park prior to the earthquake. The property is owned by a prominent Haitian family who took it over in the hours that followed the initial shock, and turned it into a makeshift field hospital. I’m here with 5 other medics from Kitsap/Pierce counties. We are the third such team from our area, and have been gratefully welcomed by a group of nurses and physicians from NOAH, an nonprofit organized by Haitian Americans for the sole purpose of doing what they can to life these destitute people from the squalid poverty they call existence.
Compared to the average Haitian, our team lives like kings. The compound is guarded 24-7 by shotgun toting private guards. We sleep in waterproof tents that shed the increasingly common tropical rain showers, and we’re fully stocked with MREs. The prominent family that runs the compound and sponsor the medical clinic also feeds us a hot meal of rice and beans each day. We missed yesterday’s meal because we arrived late, but the lead physician, whose name I can’t remember but shall learn today, took our team and a dozen other docs and nurses out to dinner in one of the fine restaurants here just outside Port Au Prince. I was dumbfounded that such a beautiful restaurant would exist in this place, much less be open and operating, but their they were, white linen tablecloths, scalloped shaped cloth napkins, serving ice-cold Heineken beer, perfectly cooked steak and a Haitian dish called Conch, a giant sea snail that was surprisingly tasty, reminding me of a cross between our geoduck and fresh ling cod.
We hadn’t expected such royal treatment, but such is Haitian hospitality. This royal family, and these Hatian-born, American educated physicians they work with, are so grateful for our coming to this impoverished island nation that was so destitute prior to the earthquake, and is now even more desperately so. They have given the six of us: Myself, Armadeus (Who we call Duce), Greg, Travis, Joe and Brianne- a hospitable welcome the likes of which we couldn’t have imagined.
Our trip in from Santo Domingo was a hair-raising 7 ½ hour ordeal via a small minivan across pothole-filled roads, around gullied-out crevices, and as we edged closer to the disaster zone, through the narrow, gridlocked streets of this ravaged city. When we came here, although we spoke little of it, we feared the instability along with the obvious concerns of poor sanitation, blazing heat, and rampant illness. What our trip in, and our first day traveling has taught us is that, while this place is desperately poor in general, and has in fact been battered by this devastating quake, its’ people are truly amazing. We saw 10’s of thousands of Haitians lining the streets, men and women urinating openly in public because they simply have no functioning restrooms, jammed together with seemingly no place to go, no place to hide. And yet there was no fighting, no pushing and shoving, no unorganized chaos in the middle of this chaos. Policemen directed traffic at major intersections, merchants have set up their small shops on what are left of the sidewalks, and the cleanup continues.
There are lots of us here to help. We see UN convoys, the 82nd airborne, relief agency vehicles from Europe, the Middle east, and of course from America. But there is so much to do, so many desperate people to help. We were told last night to “…Sleep well. Tomorrow you will do medicine you never dreamed of in the states.” We’ve all heeded that advice and slept at least 6 hours. The inky sky is just starting to yield the first grey-pink traces of the coming daylight. It’s time for Team III to get moving. Today we begin what we journeyed halfway across the Western Hemisphere to do, and we cannot wait to throw ourselves headlong into this fight to ease this country’s suffering. Yes, it feels a little like spitting on a raging 35,000 acre forest fire, but we’re ready, willing, and anxious as hell to fight.
Subject: UPDATE: Day 5
(today 1053 PST): Hi all, quick update….new teams arriving….we are all well, safe, healthy….drinking gallons of fluid and sweating it out….toughest thing about this gig is seeing so much suffering by such wonderful people…we will be going out i.n teams into the tent cities tomorrow, outside the compound…. don’t worry about us….our teams consist of two medics, a nurse, a doc, a translator, and two members of the US Army 82nd airborne….I don’t think we’d have any problem because people are grateful to be treated, but just in case, we’ve got two army bodyguards armed to the teeth 🙂
We are all fine, doing great things, things most of us haven’t done a lot of but have done here for lack of anyone else to do them…will try to write more details when i have time later this evening…
Love to all of you from all of us here in haiti….and no, we wouldn’t trade this experience anything….
we are making a big difference for the hundreds of patients we see….and it feels wonderful…..
Aaron, Brianne, Travis, Duce, Greg, and Joe….
(today 1831 PST): Short update…Greg and I were part of a team that worked an hour north of here in a field clinic, everyone else stayed here and had another absolutely dramatic day…Greg and I, with our team of nurses and docs from LA, treated 103 patients….mostly GI bugs, pneumonia, asthma, and a few minor injuries….I continue to be amazed at how gracious and longsuffering these people are, despite their destitute poverty, their loss of relatives, and the absolute tortuous desperation….they are so grateful for simply someone doing a set of vitals on them, a doc, nurse or medic spending a few moments with them, and in some cases just a couple of tylenol and a small glass of water. Just a caring touch and a smile make many of their eyes light up.
The trip to and from the outlying clinic was unbelieveable…we saw the devastation of downtown. What struck me most was the filth and squallor these people exist in…Their city streets run with waste water and are often gravel, with potholes that minivans enter and sometimes never return from. We crossed a bridge on the way back. It was about 100 yards wide. There was a 7 foot high wall of garbage stacked up next to the bridge, that extended up the bridged area…we turned at that point and traveled upward toward the mountain along the river of garbage.. as the miles rolled by, the mountain of garbage subsided….6 feet in height, 5, 4, then three…finally, I was shocked to see, eventually, that there were open spaces in the garbage…underneath this miles long wall of garbage a filthy river is flowing….welcome to Haiti 🙂
On our way back we toured downtown, the hardest struck area….there are still dead bodies in the rubble that no one has dug out…I know, because I know the smell of death….It is surreal….3 story buildings tilted at 20 degree angles…5 story buildings that are now only 15 feet high because the stories all “pancaked” on top of each other…buildings where half of the building is still standing, and in the part that remains, you can look into what used to be someone’s living room…desks still in place, closets with clothes, gym lockers. We also saw the presidential palace….you’ve all seen that on tv so I won’t waste time describing that…
The clinic work was exhausting but unbelievably fulfilling….I was working in triage, with 25-30 patients…we made a game of it while they waited…they taught me creole, and I taught them english through my interpreter…It was good to see them laugh at my clumsy attempt to speak their language. Most patients weren’t that sick, but about 10 percent were….asthma, pneumonia, vomiting diarrhea…I was reminded how rusty I am at patient assessment, and how sharp Greg is….On the positive side of things, it’s all coming back to me quickly, very quickly…and I remember now why I loved and missed being a paramedic so much….these people give me more than I give them…
Dont know a lot about the clinic work today by Duce, Brianne, Joe and Trav. I do know it was a wild day…they worked a cardiac arrest, and with all the docs standing around watching, Duce dropped an 8.0 et into this guy….we continue to build our reputation and prove ourselves with competency, compassion and hard work….first to arrive, last to leave…Today the chief physician of the compound came to Duce and asked him how he thought we should staff the facility….now that, my friends, is respect…We have earned it, and jealously guard it.
By the way, Travis is feeling much better…We all have various minor ailments…misquito bites, diarrhea, a respiratory crap that comes at least in part from all the burning garbage around us…so we are tired, occasionally emotionally overwhelmed, but treasuring every moment. Speaking of which, I’m as tired as I’ve been on this trip, so I’m going to bed early…
Love you all,,,,please be safe yourself….(we have found the security issue is tremendously overdramatized by the media….I and the crew feel safer here than in downtown Tacoma or new york…) The UN peacekeepers, private security, and US 82nd airborne are literally everywhere, including the Hatian police….we will continue to be safe, but please, trust me when I say it’s not nearly as scary as I expected…