Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rainy Day Woman #35

Well, this disaster has definitely lost that 'new car smell'.  The immediate drama of people screaming, partially trapped in rubble has passed.  The drama of emergency surgeries to save the victim's of the earthquake's immediate effects has passed.

We are left with raging wound infections because the people we discharged to the street are now sitting in mud and water-borne waste.

We are left with diphtheria and other communicable diseases.  Our betters at the UN Health Clusterfuck insist that it is not an epidemic.  All I know are the children I see who are dying from it.  Maybe there aren't enough of them to count.  Or maybe they just don't count enough.  All I know is that early this week we carefully put the body of a twelve-year old girl who had died of diphtheria in my sleeping area, because the place where we normally store the bodies had rats, and I couldn't let her mother see her like that.

I have cleaned the wounds of horribly burned patients -- sometimes without enough anesthesia.  Although I hear their screams in my sleep, nothing will ever touch the helpless wails of a mother who has lost her only surviving daughter.  

We are also left with the "normal" fare -- Haitians in car accidents, Haitians who are caught in the crossfire between police and gangs, or Haitians who have been shot in the face with rubber bullets or tear gas canisters by UN "peacekeepers" while demonstrating to demand the return of ousted President Aristide.  

Traffic accidents here are a trip.  As best I can determine, there is no universal agreement about which side of the goddamn road to drive on, so head-on collisions are common.  

The Project Medishare compound had grown to become pretty well established.

Here is what we looked like:

The small tents on the right were the living quarters for some of the long-term volunteers.  

The volunteers who were just here for five days or so lived in one of the large tents on the left of the aerial shot.  Imagine 100 people or more bunking together with limited or no access to showers.  But then again, no one had access to showers.

This worked OK until the rains hit.  I have been in tropical storms.  But I have never seen anything like this and could not even imagine it.  It was less like being in a field hospital, and more like being on the deck of the Titanic.

One night the Peds unit flooded and we had to move all the kids into the adult tent.  That meant there were rows of cots between the rows of cots -- which made nursing care kind of interesting.   

Then the ICU flooded and I discovered what "interesting" really means.  Even in a field hospital, intensive care requires LOTS of electrical equipment.  This means lots of strung wires and cables, carefully taped down so we didn't fall and break our necks.  That was OK until we flooded.

Something had to be done.  We just couldn't wait until a 'real' hospital was built.  

This began the plans to move to a secure, dry, but smaller facility.  And it began my real experience with loss down here.  I thought I knew loss.  But the world had just been toying with me until now.

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