Written by Dr. Joe Markee, one of the team leaders for the November medical team working in Haiti:
As we start our last day, we are facing a situation we’ve never encountered. Over the past several days, we have been seeing sicker patients, with a sudden increase in the number of cases of cholera. Since many patients are coming from Port-au-Prince, this may represent the patients’ impetus to seek care wherever they can find it. But it does not change the conclusion the that cholera epidemic has destroyed the fragile network that we use for transferring patients needing hospitalization for further medical care.
Our pediatrician commented last night that he is not used to the pace of caring for so many extremely ill patients (he is also an ER doctor). Case in point: We have a 1-year-old patient who probably has an intestinal obstruction. We first saw him two days ago, and we wanted to send him to Dessalines but could not do so because of the danger of sending our vehicles out at night. Yesterday, when he did arrive at their hospital, we were told they could not keep him because they had no surgeon. Calls to find a surgeon were made but without success so he spent a second night with us. Today, we will try Gros Morne again, and we’re praying that he will be able to be seen by a surgical team coming in on Saturday to work near Port-au-Prince.
Our nurses say this is the worst they have ever seen in this area; so many sick patients. The observation room is filled, patients are lying on the floor in the clinic in almost all of the rooms, and several very sick cholera patients are on IVs in the church across the street. We are running through so many IV solutions that we expect to be completely out sometime today. Yesterday we requested more fluids from Gonaives but won’t know until noon if they are available. So rounds now consists of seeing patients in three locations, making sure IVs don’t run out.
If that wasn’t enough, yesterday we had two trauma cases, one being one of the leaders of our community health program. Fortunately, neither had major life-threatening injuries. Nevertheless, they were sent to hospital facilities, and seen here again today.
Fear is rampant in the country. Our partners in Haiti have had to scour the countryside for rice and beans for our patients because of the hoarding by the population.
But we are healthy, tired and still going … We do not think the cholera epidemic is about to go way any time soon. I have no doubt that we will be dealing with this disaster on future teams.
Pray for the people of Haiti.