Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Looks Like the Apocolypse

I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind... go exploring! I had been so sheltered and focused in the hospital that it wasn't until our drive through downtown that I realized the world that awaited me. Josh and I decided to work a half day and then go exploring. Let me tell you about Josh Weirich. It's crazy because he's from Hayward, Wisconsin- about a 2 hour drive from my house. He's an EMT for the county ambulance and runs a snow shoveling and grass cutting business "Josh's Clean Cut" on the side. Before he left, one of his EMT buddies told him, "Hey, did you hear Julie Pearce from the news is going to be down there, I wonder if you'll run into her." Josh doesn't even own a tv, so he had no idea who I was, but we ended up crossing paths anyhow. He is here for a flexible length of time as well and has very flexible plans. We look out for each other. When it comes time to part from CDTI, we might travel together to another location where we become needed. It's nice because I've made a friend down here with more in common than just the northland- the two of us are always shooting off like a couple hundred pictuers a day, love adventure, and have strong faith.

We put in only about 6 hours at the clinic today. The owner and administrator's moms organized a mass in the middle of the compound for the patients. The priest spoke into a bullhorn in French for the whole thing. When they had communion, I had the priest come into my tent so that a few of my immobile patients could receive one. After we could get away from the clinic for a while, we paid a translator and cab driver to drive us around downtown for a couple of hours. We wanted to get amid the rubble and get out and walk with the people and snap lots of pictures along the way. It worked perfectly, we'd drive until we saw something we wanted a picture of, the driver would stop, we'd get out snap a few or keep walking and then get picked up at the end of a few block strip. I cannot even hardly describe what it is like to walk amid the rubble and what little remains of downtown Port au Prince. It's one thing to see pictures, it's another thing to drive through it, but it's entirely more profound when your feet hit the ground. There are fires burning in the middle of the roads, the only way they can dispose of the mounting piles of trash. Thousands of Haitians walk around aimlessly and leave you wondering where everyone appears to be going. The insides of buildings are exposed, power lines dangle over the street and curl themselves along sidewalks. 4 story buildings are completely collapsed with each layer of flooring now touching the other. You wonder how many bodies have yet to be counted. Throughout the air, a thick dust remains suspended as the rubble continues to settle. The smell reminds you there are still many left. When you look closely, deteriorating bodies could be seen. In one building, we found a man crushed amid the rubble at a sort of nursing home. With his disabilities, he probably didn't even have a fighting chance of getting free. Another upsetting sight was a school where a man nearly was free, but was smashed between two floors of the building and flattened to only a couple inches thick. His leg dangled over the side. Seeing these things is very upsetting. I've seen death before, but it's always been very reverent, very peaceful... not so twisted and traumatic as this. These people probably died filled with fear and pain. Its hard to see. Walking through the slum areas, we saw people living in some of the most horrific conditions. They were selling things like live chickens, charcoal, ice that's insulated by sawdust, and even pig's tails.

Finally, our translator had to get back to the hospital and our cab driver wanted more money, so Josh and I felt safe enough just walking by ourselves. It was a bit intimidating now because we no longer had a translator and we had a long walk back. We were certainly the minority too. In the whole day of walking through downtown and the slums, we were the only two white people around. We stuck out like a sore thumb. Once we got inside General Hospital, it was like a cultural melting pot. Medical staff from around the globe lined the tents and compound.

General Hospital is like the main public hospital downtown. The building was structurally damaged, so everything is functioning outside under several big tents. Josh and I wanted to explore the empty building, so we went on a little adventure. I've been inside many abandoned hospitals before, but this one topped them all. There was the most upsetting and unsettling feeling of being inside. It smelt like complete death. There was a room filled with gourneys and stretchers that were still covered in layers of decomposing blood and tissue. Afterall, thousands must have died here in the hospital that day. It was the closest facility to the worst of the damage. I've never smelt death like this- it is very distinct. Among this room, a patient had found refuge and was nearly dead. Dozen of flies feasted on his open wounds, a plate of food was flipped over, he was lying in his own vomit and feces, and yet so peacefully oblivious, sleeping probably his last few days away.

Throughout the rest of the hospital, it's obviuos everyone left in a big rush. Equipment is strewn about the rooms, there are big cracks in the walls, IVs that were probably ripped out in the chaos that still hang with the medicine attached on IV poles, medications sitting on countertops still waiting to be administered, and patient records scattered across the floors as entire filing cabinets and shelves tipped right over from the shaking. We went through the children's ward, the operating room, several other adult wards, the delivery room, and more. We found this one room that smelled like death times ten and found a refrigerator filled with unused units of blood dark and looking slightly cooagulated as they probably sat without power inside there for several days. Finally, we made it to another building where they were doing all of the operating. It was all open flow air, probably patient wards previous to the quake. There were a few bays they had set up where surgery was taking place. I believe this is the place I saw on the Nightly News where they were cutting limbs with actual rusty hack saws.

As we made it back out to the streets, I continued my trash collecting. I'm going to make a really neat art project when I return home, so I'm picking up interesting pieces of papers and documents for it. We were over at one of the fallen government buildings where identification cards, passports, and debt slips were weaved through the rubble. I had collected a few id cards and cool looking documents before getting a tap on the shoulder from the UN police asking what I was going to do with this trash. I told them I was going to make an art project and they said no. I quickly emptied the bag and apologized and they quit hassling us. I've collected several other neat things throughout the day though.

Josh and I were both wearing our scrubs, so we weren't really bothered by anyone unless it was a medical concern of some kind. Over by the Palace, we had a mother pull us over to check out her two small twins. I bent down and listend to their lungs and heart which sounded fine, only to look up and see a whole crowd of Haitians gathered around wondering what "the doctors were doing with the babies". Throughout the day, we'd randomly have people stop us and ask us to listen to their heart and lungs, even a crew from the Haitian Police Department and some guys with big rifles. I'll tell you, if a guy with a gun wants me to listen to his heart, I'll listen to his heart! As we continued our walking journey that took us past the fallen cathedral where the bishop died, past the big banks now destroyed, and past the tent city, we came upon a mom who saw my stethascope and asked me for help with her child. She didn't speak any English, but pulled me over to the sidewalk where there was this big blanket on the ground covering something. I pulled back the blanket and found this 44 pound little boy covered in sweat, frothing at the mouth, and covered in tears from crying his eyes out. He was burning up too and I knew we needed to get him some help immediately. We didn't have any supplies on us, so we decided to bring him back to CDTI. I hoisted him up into a wheelchair and we started pushing. The mom was lagging behind unthusiastic about the whole thing. Then we were able to stop this big SUV driving by and asked for help getting this little boy to the hospital. The man was very kind and spoke some English. Turns out we had just been picked up by the Palace architect! What are the odds of that? He drove all of us right to CDTI and I carried him into the compound and laid his little body on the closest stretcher.

He had a fever of 102+, a hand and wrist that were swollen like a balloon and was crying in pain. We had no idea the background on the boy at this point because we had no translators. When our hospital translator showed up, we discovered the 44 pound boy was actually 12 years old. He had suspected Cerebral Palsy, was born with clubbed feat, and his mom explained that he had been trampled by a crowd on the day of the earthquake because he could not get away fast enough. Immediately, we started a line in him, started running fluids, got him some Tylenol, and splinted his wrist until the morning for an xray. That night, the mom told our translator that he was nothing to her, that he does nothing, and that he's like a dog. Then, she left... leaving the child behind. She hasn't snown back up yet. Heartbreaking...

As it turns out, the boy's swollen arm had x-rays come back clear, and his CBC came back with a WBC count of 46,000!!! His arm was swollen because he had a significant infection. There was a little abrasion that was starting to fester and the suspected point of entry. This boy was septic. The doctor had told me earlier today that if we had not gotten him to the hospital, that the kid would have died for sure. I realized what a huge deal that was at that moment. I said to him, "So, does that mean we really saved a life?" He said, you've saved at the very least one life today. That hit me as so profound at that moment because I realized how if we hadn't been at the right place, at the right time, wearingthe right attire, we would have never passed the boy, the mother would have never flagged us down, and he would have never been rescued. This is truly a wonderful path that God is waking me down. I wake up, throw my feet on the ground, and he does the rest. I'm just so glad I get to be a part of his plans. Right before we had passed the boy, we had passed by the cathedral where we took pictures at the foot of the cross of another standing cross despite a devastated Church.


At February 17, 2010 at 1:35 PM , Blogger dzimmett said...

What a fabulous description! u are a true writer,
stay safe (!) and keep in touch.

At February 17, 2010 at 3:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great work, Jitterbug.

At February 17, 2010 at 7:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

bless your soul, jitterbug!

At February 17, 2010 at 10:37 PM , Blogger Bonnie Wilson said...

Thank you so much for what your doing. I will be praying for you. Saw you on news tonight. Good job.

At February 18, 2010 at 9:47 PM , Blogger erickajen said...

amen. praise the Lord for His faithful followers!

At February 24, 2010 at 9:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm Yongxi Wu from U of M Twin Cities. I heard of the great things you are doing from my host dad Loren Johnson. Would you give me your email address so that I can contact you with some questions I have?...when you see this message, please send me an email or call 612 229 5585 to reach me faster. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hear from you!

Yongxi Wu


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