Eighteen days post-earthquake and things still change daily around here. Spent the day out and about doing assessments. We find it best to stay abreast of who’s doing what and where they are doing it. It’s always good to know what our transfer and referral options are. While the presentation of acute untreated injuries has slowed, we are beginning to see more and more medical illnesses. It’s not surprising, given a large portion of the population is literally sleeping in the streets. As we drive around Port au Prince we often have to manuever around small roadblocks built out of the rubble. When night falls, the streets transform into open-air bedrooms and the blocks keep cars from driving over people as they sleep.
Despite the destruction, the Haitian people are picking up the pieces, literally and figuratively. Markets are bustling, restaurants have reopened, and the streets are full of people going about their daily business. Bulldozers have begun to chip away at the piles of bricks and concrete and the occasional ringing of hammers is heard. There is an energetic feeling in the air, and dare I say it, even a gentle whisper of hope as the Haitian people begin to sort through what remains of their lives.
It is a transition time for the Relief International team as well. Several members of our first team are back in the United States, and their replacements are en route. We are beginning to see the fruits of our labor as our patients come back for wound checks and follow-up. They are getting better! Every fracture splinted, every wound infection prevented or eradicated, every dehydrated baby who perks up and starts breast-feeding again after IVF gives us cause for celebration. Small victories, yes — but tremendously important ones, both to our patients and to the team. Dr. Stephen Bretz’s patient said it best the other day. She’d initially presented with a foot-threatening infection several days post-earthquake. After careful treatment, the foot, and the patient, are thriving. “I wouldn’t have a foot if it weren’t for you,” she said. As a medical provider, it doesn’t get much better than that.
And although many battles remain, I believe every time we win one, the Relief International team helps the Haitian people take another small halting step toward recovery.
Many steps remain, and the work is really just beginning. We continue to feel tremendously well supported by everyone back home, especially the doctors and nurses and staff at our respective Kaiser Permanente facilities. Without them, we couldn’t be here at all doing this incredibly important work.
And so we move forward into Phase 2 of our response–one brick, one step, one infected foot at a time. Please keep the good thoughts and the donations coming!
Suzy Fitzgerald, MD
Med Team Leader
EM Physician, Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area
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