From April 10 to 18, Children’s Hospital Boston sent its largest group so far to Haiti for relief efforts. A 26-member multidisciplinary team traveled to a field hospital on the Port-au-Prince airport tarmac, staffed by Project Medishare/University of Miami Hospital.
Over the next week, Thrive will feature writings and photos from many of the team members as they reflect on the struggles to provide care with limited resources. This first post is written by Sarita Chung, MD, Division of Emergency Medicine.
It’s been just over three months since a 7.1 earthquake struck Haiti. Since January, Children’s Hospital Boston has continued to provide medical teams to Haiti with the single goal of providing the best pediatric care possible in a disaster stricken country. To accomplish this goal, Children’s has sent specialized health care providers in different capacities with different organizations- immediately on the ground, on the USS Comfort ship, in Port-au-Prince and Cange, Haiti.
Compared to the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, medical needs and procedures have greatly expanded beyond the initial phase of crush injuries and amputations. Now the devastating effects of no electricity and inadequate sewage are felt by multitudes of displaced Haitians in Port-au-Prince who survive in tent cities and are at great risk for super-infected wounds/fractures, the tropical threats of malaria and typhoid, as well as trauma and burns. Especially for children, severe malnutrition complicates what otherwise would be straightforward recoveries.
As we traveled through Port-au-Prince, the Haitian people continue to demonstrate to the world their remarkable resiliency as they live in tent cities, sell their wares in front of destructed buildings, and ride in dilapidated Tap-Taps to find work. The scale and magnitude of destruction forces the recovery not to be measured in months, but rather years.
From those nervous and excited moments when we first stepped on the hot and humid campus, our Children’s team hit the ground running – providing care wherever there was the need, in the ED, Pharmacy, OR, Pediatric tent, ICUs and the Adult tent (yes we even took care of adults!)
Did we practice medicine beyond our comfort zone? Yes.
Were we physically and emotionally challenged by the work, the poverty and the utter devastation? Yes.
If given the chance, would we continue to go back and help the Haitian people rebuild their pediatric medical system? Absolutely.
Even more important is the realization that though we may have helped many during that week, the need is ever great and will continue beyond our stay in Port-au-Prince. To begin to help with the recovery is to provide a sustained presence of pediatric expertise.
From the support of senior leadership at Children’s, to our friends and colleagues on the floor who filled in for us during our absence, to those in Emergency Management, Pharmacy and Supplies, our sincerest thanks go out to all of you who have helped us in this mission … we could not have done it without you.