DARKNESS BEFORE THE DAWN
January 12, 2010 to many was the darkest day in the lives of those who lived in Haiti. Members of the Haitian diaspora who still care deeply about the island were also very much affected. The pictures that emerged the hours and days following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake moved people from around the world. The destruction and devastation was extensive. It became soon apparent that healthcare professionals were desperately needed to administer care to the thousands injured.
Back in New York, 6 Haitian American physicians were compelled to travel to Haiti to join the relief effort. Finding a way to help and volunteer turned out to be a great challenge because of the lack of coordination of the relief work at that time. On January 19, 2010, they flew to the Dominican Republic and embarked on an experience, which will forever change them. The 4 hours drive from Santo Domingo took nearly 24 hours. The first sights of the ruined neighborhoods were sobering.
There was destruction everywhere. Nothing could have prepared them for the sights, smells, and emotions of those first moments. Within minutes of their arrival in Port-Au-Prince, these doctors got to work. They worked in different facilities all of which had sustained some degree of damage. They knew that they were not going to practice medicine as they were used to but had to adapt and do the best they could in very trying conditions. They worked tirelessly.
Our doctors did whatever was needed at the time: triage, assisting in or performing surgeries, starting IVs, giving out medications, cleaning and dressing wounds, doing small and large repairs, and sometimes simply listened and comforted.
From hospitals to makeshift hospitals, the scenes were pretty much the same. A great number of patients of different ages with a variety of injuries seemed to still be in shock and traumatized. They saw crush injuries, infected wounds, internal injuries, fractures, and infections. People with chronic illnesses had no medications or any idea of where to go for follow up care. Patients who in normal circumstances would be in an intensive were been cared for on mats under tents. Lack of proper anesthesia was a major issue thus patients were given motrim for pain after amputation of an arm or leg. What amazed those caring for the injured was the lack of complaints.
These doctors worked with people from around the world who had all came to offer their services. They saw despair, and hope, sadness and courage. They heard heart ranching stories but mostly they were impressed by the resilience and dignity of the Haitian people. When they left Haiti 1 week later, only one thing was certain: They knew they would continue what they had started and that they would remain dedicated to providing healthcare, hope, and assistance to the people of Haiti.