Where to start; so much has happened. We started the morning with a house-clearing rattle, but didn’t realize until hours later that it made news worldwide as a magntude 5.9 aftershock. I ended up getting a text message several hours later from my youngest son asking if I was OK, and realized only then how news blurbs such as these make people worry. As I tried to call him from my satellite phone, he was texting me back saying, “Dad, I’m in class and can’t answer, but thanks for letting me know you are OK.” (Communications have been very sporadic. I could get texts in, but no texts out, and no email or voice on my cell).
After the rattle we just did a quick head count for team members, circled the house to look for damage, and got back inside to continue packing. We traveled to the epicenter of the orignal earthquake and quickly set up our first full-service clinic. In five hours of work we saw 68 patients — and about 60 percent were moderate to severe trauma injuries from the quake eight days ago! These included a pelvic fracture, a femur (thigh bone) fracture, multiple large and gaping lacerations, broken ankles, amputated fingers, and much more. Fortunately, we found a number of referral hospitals, including a military base staffed with U.S. military personnel who had access to the USNS Comfort. We referred eight of our cases to one of those facilities, and treated the others ourselves.
Just as we were closing a mother rushed her 1 year old to us – the girl had a large swelling on the side of her head, was paralyzed on one side of her body, and had been so since the earthquake eight days before. One of our docs carried her into our car, and we transported her and the mother to the military base where a helicopter was leaving for the USNS Comfort.
For a team whose members have not all worked together before, it all went amazingly smoothly. The need is still quite great. I will let the pictures tell the rest.
Update from Hernando Garzon, MD, January 21, 2010.