Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deployment to Haiti

It's official. Sometime around March 12th, I leave to volunteer at the Sacred Heart Hospital, in Milot, Haiti. The hospital is approximately 70 miles north of Port Au Prince, so it was not directly affected by the earthquake. However, they have surged in capacity to handle the massive patient influx from the disaster region. What started as a small local hospital has exploded in size to a massive medical center. The emergency room started out as a tarp over the concrete courtyard. It has since been replace/augmented by massive tents, capable of holding dozens of patients.

These patients look like they come any way they can. The hospital has "borrowed" one of the local school's soccer fields, and turned it into a helicopter landing zone. From the blogs and online photo galleries, it looks like the tent gets emptied, only to fill up completely in minutes.

Looks like my old ER, maybe a little worse :)

Another unfortunate staple of the postings from Milot is the number of amputations that are occurring. This is a tragic fact of life in austere medical conditions, particularly with the crush injuries that are common in natural disasters. Even more tragic is the lack of physical therapists. With the scarcity of resources (They're lucky to have x-ray capability, forget a CAT Scan or C-Arm), the surgeons have to operate to save lives, not limbs. It looks like they're doing a tremendous job, in difficult circumstances.

It looks like incredible work. The kind of work that I really miss. The downtime pictures show teams that looked tired, but happy. Caregivers are frequently seen with convalescing patients, with smiles on all their faces.

It looks like most deployments last a week. The folks that I've talked to have said it's an exhausting week. I'm hoping I can last more than a week. I've got the time, and I miss the work. Still, I think this is one of those things that you won't be able to judge until you see the conditions.

I'm running around now. Studying topics relevant to the conditions. There are a number of tropical diseases that I've never seen, but will be incredibly common there (Filariasis is a fact of life down there, and I've heard the mosquitoes are a sight to be seen). I'm also trying to learn a little bit of creole. My sister picked up a great book for healthcare providers, English/Haitian Creole Medical Dictionary, By Heurtelou and Vilsaint. The book looks like a kid's coloring book, but the simplicity of it will make it incredibly easy to use. Despite the simplicity, it provides significant depth in medical terminology. This was a great find.

I need gear. I haven't heard how the ER operates. I think I'm going to need to find a nice, adjustable headlamp for night shifts.
Also, while the hospital has filtered water capability, I imagine if the generator stops, so does the water... I need to find a decent portable water filter.
Malaria prevention is a big deal (at least to me). I just found out that one friend who deployed without taking anti-malarials is now laid up with malaria. Yeah, one guy is not a good statistical sample. Still, I'm a preventative medicine kind of guy. I'm going to work pretty hard not to get nailed with that little bug. So, I need to find mosquito netting, or even one of those combined hammocks. That would come in handy up in Canada as well.

Anti-malarials aren't cheap. In fact, the newer generation ones are insanely expensive. That's going to be a significant expense.

I'm only allowed 50lbs of personal gear. I'm hoping to find a cheap netbook. The hospital has occasional internet, and I should be able to upload things (like this blog). Hell, I wish I'd kicked my butt in gear awhile ago, and built that USB EKG box. That would be pretty useful right now.

I'll try to keep this updated. I guess I'll have to make sure I keep it clean and on topic, since I don't know who will be showing up. So if you read my earlier posts, I guess I have to change those rules. If there is information that you need, let me know. I'll try to get it on here.

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