Category Archives: Uncategorized

Launching a New Blog – ‘Dispatches From…’

Great news  – we have officially launched our new blog, “Dispatches From…” , through which we plan to share Kaiser Permanente caregivers’ experiences as they donate their time and expertise to relief and charitable care organizations worldwide.

You can find the new blog at:

The new blog’s first entry comes from Jack Cochran, MD, who is executive director of The Permanente Federation. He wrote about his recent two-week mission in Tanzania. Dr. Cochran has traveled to Africa for close to 25 years to provide services to those in need there.

The new blog wouldn’t have been possible without all of the caregivers who contributed to this blog, and all of the dedicated readers of “Dispatches From Haiti.” Please consider reading and subscribing to the new blog.

Dr. Mary Sue Carlson Returns to Medor

Note: Mary Sue Carlson, MD, is an ophthalmologist at the Kaiser Permanente Falls Church (Virginia) Medical Center.  She has traveled annually to Medor, Haiti,  for several years through her church organization, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, Va. She traveled to Haiti this month to help provide aid during the cholera epidemic. She sent these two dispatches on Wednesday, Dec. 8:

Today we lost the woman who was in the cholera clinic.  We are all in semi-shock.  If she had been in the United States, where we could have checked labs and monitored her with up-to-date techniques, she may still be alive.  This is one of the hardships of Medor’s remoteness.  If the air ambulance had been operational several days ago, things could be different.

The medical clinic took care of more than 200 patients today– one person with mild cholera–one teen boy who was severely burned during an earthquake aftershock last February.  His arm and hand are totally disfigured and his arm may need to be amputated.  We would transport him to Paul Farmer’s hospital in San Marc, but that hospital is closed to all patients except for those with cholera.

I spoke to all the children in each of the 15 classrooms in the primary school.  They are now all up on how the protect themselves from cholera.  It kept me out of clinic all morning–but this is totally worth it if we can help stem the transmission of the disease.  When the road is totally operational, it may be easier to get bleach up the mountain.

We learned that “Lazarus” is not the only child from the school who died.  One other child also died.  And two other children have gotten cholera and survived.  One girl missed classes for a month.  Today was her first day back in school.  I took her picture and will show you when we return.

Heidi was interviewed by Ann Curry today– NBC seems to be focusing on the airstrip, and the clinic.  We are a bit concerned that they are ignoring the 13 years of groundwork of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

We learned today that Pere Luckson has started an adult education program.  The students at these classes seem excited and determined to learn.

The work on the airstrip is progressing, although slowly.  Pere Luckson will hire more workers to tackle this.  Stan is still optimistic that the work can be completed before the Rural Area Medical Volunteer Corps team leaves but a bit concerned of recent slow going.

Today one RAM volunteer who was working on the airstrip got overheated and dehydrated.  He was treated with IV hydration and told that he is on “vacation” for the rest of the trip.

I took care of 58 patients today–doing eye exams and distributing glasses.  With everything else going on this seems pretty dull and mundane. But the look on the patients’ faces when they are fit with the proper glasses shows that this is still an important function.

When speaking to all the primary school children today I sent them greetings, prayers and love from the people of OLQP.  There is some drama and disappointments going on around here. But it is our twinning relationship, our faith and love for each other gives us strength.

*  *  *

Hello, All.
First – we are all ok.

The election  results are in and many people are accusing the Haitian government of election fraud. Right now there are riots in Port-au-Prince.  The UN has engaged some unruly crowds.  There are tire burnings.  The airport is closed.  Ann Curry and several others from NBC could not leave Medor today as planned.  She has been filming from the rectory porch speaking about the crisis.  This will be aired on (Wednesday night’s) news.

All this and our children in Medor here went to class today as usual.  The clinics were packed.  The farmers conducted business as usual.

This certainly drives home the fact that there are some real blessings to Medor’s remote location.

-Dr. Sue

Dispatches From Haiti Wins PR News Digital PR Award for Best Blog!

We are thrilled to share with you news that this blog was just honored — literally within the hour — with the PR News Digital PR Award for Best Blog!

This award belongs to the dozen or more Kaiser Permanente caregivers who freely gave their time and effort to write the compelling, thoughtful dispatches throughout — all while caring for people injured following a natural disaster of proportions that few of us, hopefully, will see firsthand. Please consider reading through some of the dispatches in this blog. Hopefully they will move you as they moved many of us in the days and weeks following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The PR News’ Digital PR Awards are recognized among the industry’s top  honors in the public relations-communications digital space, showcasing outstanding digital initiatives among corporations, agencies and nonprofit organizations. The awards programs draw more than 1,000 entries each year and highlight some of the best practices in the PR profession. You can read more about the awards at

–Vince Golla

Update from Pignon: ‘Incredible Resilience’

It is Saturday, the OR is closed, there is no emergency case to do, we finished rounds, and dressings have been changed.  This is the first time I can take a break, find a way to send an email (from the Campbell’s orphanage), and give you an update.

The week has been busy with multiple surgical procedures for limb and chest injuries.  The previous surgical team, led by Dr. Johnson from Baltimore, left early in the week; and two orthopedic surgeons — one from Brisbane Australia, and the other from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada — were flown directly to Pignon by Rotary International.  We therefore have enough physicians.  Patients are filling up all available places at the hospital, the hallways are full and mattresses are on the ground.

My role is to do the pre-op and post-op care.  I share this work with Dr. Nelms, an ER physician from West Virginia.  My main role is to communicate with the patients, the local doctors and nurses. I am therefore acutely aware of the human tragedy and the devastation that took place.

Some are relatively lucky.  For instance, this family from Pignon had three children who were students in Port au Prince,  The older brother, Sony, sustained a compound, comminuted fracture of the humerus and one of the twin sisters,  Netlie,  multiple injuries (hemo-pneumothorax requiring a chest tube, and mandibular fracture).  There are healing well and they will both be home with family soon.

Some were flown to Pignon with hip, femur or ankle fractures, and are doing well medically, but they are not sure when and how they will return home and where home is going to be as their homes were destroyed in Port au Prince.

Nika is a lovely 10-year-old girl whose feet were crushed when her house collapsed in Carrefour.  Her father and siblings died in the earthquake.  She and her mother were flown to Pignon for treatment (amputation of one foot and partial amputation with reconstruction for the other foot).  What will happen to them after she is recovered is up in the air, but the Campbells at the orphanage have offered to keep them for a while.

Then there is Guirlande, a beautiful 23-year-old woman whose leg was crushed, had a first amputation in Port au Prince, a second higher in Hinche and a third one here in Pignon (disarticulation at the hip) because of ascending infection.  Yesterday, for the first time,  she sat up and was able to take three  steps with a walker.  She and her mother were very happy about the progress, and promised that each day she will take a few more steps.

Most people show incredible resilience and manage to smile, and trust in the future.  Very few show the anxiety you would expect after surviving such a disaster.

Then there is Mariella, a 60-year-old lady with a sub-capital hip fracture (Garden IV).  She has been in bed since the earthquake, the surgeons waiting for the right hardware (Austin-Moore prosthesis).  The poor lady has five children, but she does not know if they are alive or dead and she is in Pignon by herself.  She is very quiet, and has a soft voice, but listening to her I understood well enough:  I am going to die, she keeps uttering.  I told her that she would die if she stays in bed, but she will live if she can get out of bed.  The first step has been to put her in a chair, and we are working on getting her to take a few steps with a walker.  The local staff is trying to send information regarding Mariella on the radio, and hopefully a family member will be able to come to Pignon.  In the meantime, the orthopedic surgeons have requested the right equipment and hopefully the Rotary Club or some other group will provide it in the near future.
Each patient has a story, but I don’t have time on the computer to give them all.

Overall, the country is in shock.  In Pignon, none of the schools has been functioning since the earthquake, and I understand that it is the case throughout the country.  Children, normally seen walking to and from school in their colorful uniforms, are nowhere to be seen.

All the members of our group are well.  We are so tired at night, that we don’t even hear all the roosters that used to keep us awake at night in years past.  The church bells and church singing wake us up by dawn each morning.  The cooks are preparing the usual good Haitian food for us:  Rice, beans and goat.

Hope to give you an update again.

Claude Roge, MD

Deploying Mobile Clinics

Greetings from Carrefour, Port au Prince, Haiti.

With the fixed clinic in Carrefour up and running, we have now been able to turn our attention to the mobile clinics.  We are targeting several areas identified by the Ministry of Health as especially in need of this service.  Sunday morning we loaded up our two-vehicle convoy complete with three MDs, one RN, and multiple expat and national staff, and left our fixed clinic at 8:30 am.  We set up shop at Tabanarre de la Grasse, an Internally Displaced Persons camp on the site of what used to be a school and orphanage.  After a whirlwind of activity, the team had the tents and the clinic up and running by 10:30 am.  By noon we had done our first two acute care transfers.  By 3 p.m., we had seen 114 patients. We estimate 30 percent were in urgent need of our services and would have become sicker without this medical intervention.  We continue to see previously untreated earthquake injuries and many wounds that have now become infected.

We also continue to operate our fixed clinic and gave medical treatment to 148 patients.  The plan for Monday is more of the same, including setting up a new mobile clinic at a large IDP camp near what used to be the Prime Minister’s office.  We will run this clinic directly out of the backs of our trucks.

As you might imagine, our team is tired but extremely happy to have reached this many Haitians.  We have everything we need thanks to the incredible hospitality of Dr. Catherine Wolfe and Cherlie Severe, RN.  They normally live and operate Friends For Health in Haiti near Jeremie, Haiti, and have opened Cherlie’s home here in Carrefour to us for both our living and our fixed clinic space.  The aftershocks continue and most of us sleep outside, but frankly, it’s quite nice to sleep under the Haitian sky.

We continue to believe there is a great deal of urgent unmet need out there, and will be working very hard to find and treat those patients.

We would like to thank everyone for the incredible support and heartfelt wishes.  All of it means a great deal to our team.  Between the support of those back home and the gentle and grateful smiles of the Haitians, our spirits and energy levels remain high.  Thank you all for helping us to do this work.

And a special thank you to the team here on the ground, who do anything and everything when asked and even when not asked, and do it with unfailing energy and good humor: Josh Weil, MD (Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa), Vivian Reyes, MD (Kaiser Permanente San Francisco), Stephen Bretz, MD (John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek, Calif.), Catherine Wolf, MD (Friends For Health In Haiti), Linda Martin, RN (Kaiser Permanente Morse Sacramento), Kelly Belli (Kaiser Permanente Morse Sacramento), Cherlie Severe, RN (Friends For Health In Haiti), Barbie Law (Captain-Paramedic, Sacramento Metro Fire), Don Engle, DDS (Lafayette, Calif.), Serena Clayton (California School Health Centers Association), Mike Speaks (Denali Park, Alaska), Andrew Johnston (Project Coordinator, Relief International), and Tiare Cross (Team Leader, Relief International).  Hernando Garzon MD, who led the initial effort and established the team in Haiti, continues to be very much involved from the United States.

More later, we are heading out for clinics now.

Thanks to all!

Suzy Fitzgerald, MD
Medical Team Leader
Relief International
Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area

Update from Suzy Fitzgerald MD, January 26, 2010

Dispatch from Pignon

 The following dispatch is from Claude Roge, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara (Calif.) Medical Center.  Dr. Roge is in Haiti at the request of Interplast SouthDr. Roge’s wife, Shelley, relates that they have traveled to Haiti each March since 2005 to provide care in the city of Pignon, Haiti. She forwarded this communication from Dr. Roge that he sent Sunday, Jan. 24.

We boarded a C-130 plane and landed in Port au Prince around Noon. The airport was very congested with military airplanes and helicopters, mainly from the USA, and rescue teams from countries such as Poland, Spain, France, Holland, Turkey, Colombia, etc.

It was easy for us to leave he airport. The complications started with our cargo, three large crates full of medical supplies. We had to wait all afternoon to be moved from one corner of the airport to an other corner. When it was finally moved, it was placed in the FEMA section. The officers were kind enough to let us take our supply. The other problem was with the transport. The truck that was supposed to take our supply to Pignon broke down. We fortunately found a bus half full with Haitians escaping Port au Prince that could take us. We piled the top of the bus with supplies, but we had to leave some on the tarmac (hopefully will arrive in Pignon in the next few days).

We were finally ready to leave at night-time. It was too late for our team to take the helicopter. It took us two hours to get through the traffic jam in Port au Prince, and after driving a few hours the driver recommended to stop for the night, because the road ahead is in very bad condition and he did not feel safe to travel it at night. We stayed in a hotel in Mirabelais. Early in the morning we left for the last leg of the trip, a four-hour journey over terrible road. I gave the teddy bear to a little girl, Jessica Aldius, who was escaping Port au Prince after her home was destroyed a few family members perished.

After lunch, we went to the hospital to bring our supplies, assess the needs,and meet the previous team. The hospital is full of patients who were evacuated from Port au Prince by air. Mainly fractures and crush injuries. Our team will overlap with the team currently in Pignon for a few days, then our team will take over completely. It is estimated that the need will continue for some time. Orthopedic surgeons and ward physicians will be in need. An ER physician and I will be doing the pre-op and post-op care. We already changed a few dressings, but real work will start tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for your support.