On The Ground From Haiti – what’s it really like?

Here’s an unfiltered, honest-to-God report from an amazing woman. Cheryl is an occupational therapist who was a part of my Haiti team when we went in February. She was so moved by what she saw that she came back, immediately organized her own team (this time of all volunteer occupational/physical therapists), and headed right back for another week this month. So for anyone wondering what’s up, how Haiti looks to an unbiased source, what has happened to all those people who got amputations, and if there’s been any change from the aid sent – here’s what the situation’s like, as of now, amid the devastation of Haiti.

“Hello Friends,

I finally have some time to write as I am getting ready to go to the airport. Our time here was very productive and I feel we served the patients well that we saw. We had 3 teams of 2 therapists that went into hospitals, clinics, and antennae. I went to satellite clinics called antennae that are set up throughout Port au Prince with the mission to serve ongoing rehab patients with primarily orthopedic problems. The patients we saw had the worst injuries any of us have seen. Most of them had nerve damage either from being pinned under buildings or from the severe swelling that ensues after severe compression. None of these patients had use of their hands so we did a lot of splinting to position and try to regain motion. The culture here is that if you have an injured part you do not use it at all, for the most part they have not moved their arms since the earthquake so we also did a lot of adaptive devices to allow them to start using their hand for activities like eating and writing. This part of the treatment was such a joy to see their faces when they could actually use their hand, they were shocked. We worked with a rehab organization called Handicap International, they have presence in 14 locations throughout PAP and found all the arm injuries and funneled them to us in 3 general locations. We were the first team to implement this type of focus and they were thrilled with the results. There were definitely glitches that needed to be worked through but by Tues we had systems in place and things ran smoothly. We have established connection with HI now and we are in the planning phases of setting up a surgical/therapy team to start treating the cases that will need reconstructive surgery (which is most of the patients we saw). Pam, a therapist on our team is taking the lead on this and has done these types of trips in the past.

The amazing Cheryl, bringing joy and love to our Haiti host, Natasha, on our February trip

The amazing Cheryl, bringing joy and love to our Haiti host, Natasha, on our February trip

We have seen God’s hand on our trip and our team. It rained only one day and no one on our team even had a minor illness. We were all able to stay hydrated although the temperature yesterday was 97 with high humidity.
The school we are staying at is beautifully run and we were blessed to be able to stay in a classroom rather than pitch our tents on the grass. It has been a real joy working with people from all over the world who have a heart to serve the people of Haiti.

What can I say about the people we served…….we saw some with a quiet resolve, some with high hopes, and some severely depressed. The nationals we served with were such a joy and we had the best translators I have experienced on a missions trip. The stories we hear from the Haitians vary when we ask them about their feelings about the government but they all agree that things are moving too slowly and they feel more needs to be done to start re-building the infrastructure. The situation here has definitely improved since February. I see more demolition started, there are construction workers hired by both the US govt and private NGOs that are removing rubble but this is pretty sparsely seen. People have started to set up little stores in their sheet villages and life is moving along but there are still so many people unable to work and therefore unable to provide the basics for their families. There are still many sheet villages that do not have tarps to protect them from the rain.”

Do you think aid is being directed efficiently in Haiti? Are you wondering what’s happening now, almost four months after? Share your thoughts and info in the comments section. Doc Gurley is the only Harvard Medical School graduate, ever, to be awarded the coveted Shoney’s Ten Step Pin for documented excellence in waitressing, and is both a Board- and Bored-Certified internist. You can get more health posts at www.docgurley.com, or jump on the Twitter bandwagon and follow Doc Gurley. Also check out Doc Gurley’s joyhabit and iwellth twitter feeds – so you can get topic-specific fun, effective, affordable tips on how to nurture your joy and grow your personal wellth.

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