Dear family and friends of the The LAMP for Haiti-
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have heard this so many times from people whom we have helped this week and you need to hear it, because it is through your generosity and kindness that we have all become a part of Haiti in such a positive way. I am certain that many of you share in having been moved by the outpouring of humanity towards this country. In a way that sentiment sums up what Haiti is right now — disaster and hope. People suffering and people pitching in to relieve that suffering. Today a patient said to me “Dr James, thank you and God bless you and the people that sent you.” This is the real thing, and we are making a difference in our response — yours and mine.
I know that I am overdue to let you know what is going on in Haiti, and what we are doing to assist. Forgive me as this is the very 1st time I have had access to email. I am currently staying at our project manager’s home. She has no electricity. Our clinic’s electricity is out as well. We have a generator but it was being repaired prior to the quake. The owner of the repair closed his shop this week as his wife and daughter died in the last week. The hospital where I have been working after we finish in Cite Soleil does have its own power, but I have been too busy there to send email! (Today someone suggested I charge our laptop at the hospital and then write tonite — brilliant.)
I flew To Santo Domingo last Saturday, and was able to make contact with USAID at the airport. It was packed with people trying to get back to the US. USAID was organizing flights via helicopter for medical personnel and I was happy to be among those flown in the early the next day to Port au Prince.
All telephone service was essentially down and so I took a taxi straight to our clinic site since I could not contact our staff immediately. The driver quickly informed me that gas prices had shot up and so the ride was going to be expensive. He was right, as gas is now about 12USD/ gallon and there are long lines . Last night our driver, Junior, slept in our car overnight at the gas station to get an early spot in the line so that we could get to work on time.
Once at our clinic I was warmly welcomed by Jesula, our “keeper of the keys” and she showed me the damages to our neighborhood, including the entire back wall of her house which no longer exists. Adjacent to our center is a small church where 11 people died when it collapsed on them. A major water cistern in our neighborhood was destroyed. Many small homes are destroyed, having fallen into rubble. Our clinic security wall collapsed. Our water system is out. Many people have come into see us asking for food and water.
Mending a Broken Leg
We have been treating both acute wounds as well as wounds that have been as yet untended to. We have managed lacerations and bone fractures. We have seen many infected wounds. And we have seen lots of infectious problems (yesterday, a volunteer and our driver brought a 7-day-old child to a pediatric hospital in Tabarre — about 15 min away — and he was immediately begun on appropriate treatment for fear and respiratory distress in a newborn. I saw the child today and he is doing well. I strongly suspect he would have died had we not intervened when we did.
Because of the disruption of services to people living such fragile existence, this vulnerable population will feel the effect of the earthquake for along time to come. Housing, water, and food are generally a daily concern, now even more so. (Two of our staff members’ homes have collapsed).
To that end, on this initial trip following the recent earthquake, we knew that several goals needed to be met and I think that we have strongly engaged them:
1) Re-establish our clinic presence in Cite Soleil. The recent quake effected the prison, and many escaped. Security was initially an issue and staff were accosted twice last week. Security in Cite Soleil is much improved with military presence for the time being. Additionally, our residents like us, and they watch out for us. One patient told me the other day, “Someone told me, Dr James, that LAMP abandoned the clinic after the earthquake, but I did not believe you would.” He was quite correct.
2) Show solidarity with our staff by being present with them in body and spirit. They are happy for the efforts we all have made in getting me here. It speaks to our dedication to them as staff and members of this project, and to them as persons.
3) To provide immediate and ongoing assistance. We are providing medical care in their neighborhood, as well as in other areas of great need. After our clinic ends, our staff doctor, Joey Prosper, has been working in a clinic/hospital in the center of P-a-P , while I have been working at Our Little Brothers and Sisters Hospital, started by a Passionist priest and physician, Rick Frescette. It has been a major receiving center for traumatic injuries of adults and children alike, and it has been a privilege to work alongside some terrific doctors, nurses, and volunteers from Italy, the DR, Poland, Germany, and the US.
Today we purchased badly needed tires for a water truck and arranged for two deliveries of potable water. Both were delivered already, and were a welcome sight. We picked up food for a mother/child feeding center in Cite Soleil and delivered it along with toys for children (there were even women’s hairpins!) We began our rebuilding plans to secure our site. Cement should be soon coming.
And so, again thanks to all, for your kinship, and your friendship. In particular thanks on behalf of those whose lives you are truly helping to make better.