General Hospital, Port-au-Prince, Haiti—January 15-22, 2010
Debra Hawk, CRNA, volunteered early after the Haiti earthquake — serving the first week after the quake hit. She says, "There was no electricity and no running water. The conditions were primitive with hundreds in need. As each day passed, more and more teams of healthcare volunteers arrived, allowing us to have five surgery stations by the time I left seven days later." Below is Debra's account of her experience in Haiti.
I was contacted by Dr. Pier Boutin
, orthopedic surgeon and Dr. Mark Hyman
. They had a private plane arranged out of Boston to Ft. Lauderdale with Dr. Paul Farmer
(director of Partners in Health) on it. We also had Dr. Ernest Benjamin
(Haitian/American) and Dr. Jean Louis Dupiton
(Haitian/American) both critical care physicians from Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. In addition we had Cindy Delgado, registered nurse (RN), from Ft. Lauderdale.
My understanding is that Dr. Pier Boutin and her husband Dr. Mark Hyman
initiated the mission. We went representing Partners in Health with Dr. Paul Farmer. Dr. Pier Boutin and her father, Dr. George Boutin, both French-speaking orthopedic surgeons, were critical to the team. Pier called me at 6 p.m., I left Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Thursday, January 14, at 11 p.m., arriving at Ft. Lauderdale January 15, at 7 a.m. The plane from Boston arrived to Ft. Lauderdale around 11:30 a.m. and we remained on hold until 3:30 p.m. when we had clearance to fly to Haiti. We arrived at Port-au-Prince at 5 p.m. on January 15, and flew over the airport for two hours until we had clearance to land.
We landed at 7 p.m. and immediately unpacked our supplies. We were transported to the General Hospital, and were greeted by hundreds of beds and patients covering the grounds of what was their main hospital. We were the first team to arrive at General Hospital and immediately got to work. We moved into a building we would convert into an operating suite. Dr. Boutin began seeing patients outside while Cindy and I cleaned the room we would use for our first surgery in the morning. That first night we slept on the floor of what was going to be the operating room (OR). All night we could hear the moaning of the hundreds of injured and the endless noise of dump trucks being used to transport the dead. The odor in the air was overwhelming. We all knew we had a big day ahead of us and slept as best we could.
Early Saturday morning we started looking around the campus for stretchers, oxygen tanks, and any other supplies usable for our makeshift OR. I found oxygen and a bag valve mask (ambu bag), and moved them to the OR. Dr. Boutin lined up our first surgery patient. She asked if I was ready. Ready or not, I needed to perform. I had oxygen, an oxygen mask, ambu bag, 60cc syringe and nasogastric (NG) tube for suction, ketamine, fentanyl, propofol, emergency room (ER) medication, and a precordial stethoscope.
Our first surgery went very smoothly considering the lack of resources. Dr. Jean Louis Dupiton would take charge of the post surgical patients and Dr. Benjamin created a critical care unit in another building. By the end of Saturday the International Medical Corps (IMC)
team headed by Dr. Rob Fuller
, had arrived, making an enormous contribution to what we started. Dr. Fuller and his team began organizing and triaging the patients who lay on the street. We started with one operating station Saturday morning and with Dr. Fuller’s team, and the arrival of a French team, we ended with three operating stations by the end of Saturday. We worked nonstop into the night using mining head lights. We continued to unpack and organize the operating room till 11 p.m., as we found tables and shelves to stack supplies.
Partners in Health arranged a host home with Micheline Rampy for the remainder of our stay. Up and out early Sunday morning with one stop at a hardware shop. Dr. George Boutin was able to locate the owner of the shop who opened the doors so Dr. Boutin could purchase five sharp hacksaws. Local Haitian providers started to arrive on Sunday, allowing us to open another operating station. Dr. Vanessa Tintus
, a local anesthesia resident, arrived with a much needed battery operated pulse oximeter and headed the additional operating station. More and more teams were arriving as well as more patients. The arrival of the Association of Haitian Physicians and CRNA Jean LeFevre
, and later CRNA Brian Birner
from Dartmouth was a huge welcoming sight. I left January 21, with Drs. Pier and George Boutin, after we handed off the OR to the Mt. Sinai team from New York.
I have received email from Dr. Vanessa Tintus who continues to work at the Hospital and have hope.
Nurse anesthetist Debra Hawk (middle), Dr. George Boutin (right) and unidentified woman (left). Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman
Dr. Pier Boutin treats a young victim of the Haiti earthquake in the hospital's parking lot. Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman
Dr. Pier Boutin examines a patients' injuries. Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman
Debra Hawk, CRNA, Dr. Pier Boutin, and Dr. George Boutin bandage a leg amputation. Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman
Volunteer Medical Team Riding Together in Haiti
Front left to right: Debra Hawk, CRNA, and Dr. George Boutin
Back left to right: Dr. Jean Louis Dupiton, Cindy Delgado, RN, and Dr. Pier Boutin. Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman
Front-left: Dr. Ernest Benjamin, a Haitian-American doctor from Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York accompanied by other disaster relief workers. Photo by Dr. Mark Hyman