In my Son’s Words

In my Son’s words ……winding down…….

I just arrived safely back in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  I spent the bulk of last week working in an orphanage that we turned into a hospital down the road from the real hospital.  This is where the surgeons did non stop surgery.  There was loads of orthopedic trauma, neurological injuries and spine trauma, open wounds, burns, blunt and open trauma to the chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremities.  There were crush injuries to just about every part of the body.  The air was filled with despair of families split apart searching among the wounded, and for each other.  We put in l2 – l4 hour days and shifts.  Teams from all over the world converged at our clinic and hospital which was right on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

During the week there were days filled with all of the above.  That night a woman had a baby, and the child born, had a trauma of a head injury.

This is just some of the many, many people; I personally treated, and then sometimes handed off to someone else for more care.

Another woman was in excruciating pain and had severe injuries.  We were transferring her by ambulance to a better facility.  All I had was my hands and pain medication.  I held her hands for 3 hours.  Another black Haitian man, who certainly didn’t understand much English, was another transport I made. He had a major bleed in his belly.    I also held his hand for 3 hours. I wear braded bracelets on one wrist, and one was getting frayed.  I took my knife and ripped it off my arm, and gave it to this man.  I somehow made him understand that this piece of clothing was for him to wear, and I told him it was from my dad to you.  He whispered “God Bless You.” I was trying to convey that it was like a “piece of me.”

Another patient I was transporting had a gang green fracture.  A child with a lost eye, needing of prosthesis was another transport. This was going to be another amputation.  Again, all I had was some morphine for these people.    In the United States, this child would need a place like St. Jude’s. The evacuation of the four patients in two ambulances, of which the one I was in was a very bumpy three hour ride for only 70 miles but it was even longer for the patients and again all we had on board was a very small supply of morphine, water to wash them down, as the ambulances of course had no air conditioning.  We just sat by their sides …..Although we spoke different languages, when we arrived they looked at us with appreciation.  I could not ever imagine a ride like that let alone lying that way for days waiting for transport out.

We were able to helicopter two kids out, one with a depressed skull fracture and one with an orbital fracture and head trauma.  Our spine patients were still waiting for choppers to get them out when we left this morning.

The ambulance experience was transport stories and was very spiritual experiences.

Several new teams came yesterday to replace us. Last evening in the mountains, there was another severe aftershock, so strong that the patients panicked and ran out of the orphanage and one jumped from the second story and luckily only broke his arm.  There was no way to convince the patients to go back.

There was plenty of moving and tender, and sad experiences.  I am still processing it.  I helped babies with severe burns and had the joy of several healthy childbirths at the clinic.  There were kids with horrendous wounds and fractures, calmed by other victims who were total strangers and either sang to them or helped translate to calm them.

I inserted a chest tube using a foley catheter for someone with impending tension pneumothorax, made splints out of all sorts of stuff, cleaned wounds, with not only the basics but new tricks learned from other docs here and abroad, hydrated severely dehydrated patients, helped cast, laughed with the people when we could and cried when we couldn’t help it.  I witnessed thousands of acts of courage and kindness by the beautiful Haitian people, and basically was lucky to be part of such a large effort to help them via an amazing group of docs, nurses, and other volunteers.

I had to miss my morning flight as the copilot for Stan Brock the Head of RAM, (Remote Area Medicine) is sick this morning, and I am looking after him tonight and will get home another route tomorrow morning.  I wish I could stay longer, but I miss the kids and need to get back to work.  These beautiful people are truly amazing despite the devastation of their country.   They have a silent dignity that I can not do justice to describe with mere words.  The survivors were mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, and from all walks of life.  They were carpenters, and ship captains to brick layers, doctors, poets, author, masons, and business owners.  They have all been left with nothing at home but complete destruction.

There is so much to describe which I will also write via a blog later, but for now I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help and be on my way back.

I tore a ligament in my right angle, goofing around the other morning playing soccer with some of the kids while waiting for our bus back to where we stay in another village on the frontier/border which only helped them laugh.  All I could do was reflect that unlike many of those kids, friends and family, my ankle, albeit sore is still attached to my own leg and will recover without a trace while they are left with the physical and emotional scars of being a survivor that will last a lifetime.

Thank you everyone for the well wishes. Once I get the pictures, I will post them and forward them on.  Please forward this story to others who I might not have forwarded this too.  Please pray for the healing of the people of Haiti and their families.

Ross…….January 25th. 2010