Cover Story

Aftershock

"Aftershock" Continued...

Issue: "The Haiti quake," Feb. 13, 2010

The injuries were grim: amputated legs, amputated arms, broken femur bones, severe flesh wounds. Though the doctors could manage the patient load, they were running low on critical supplies, partly because donated items from different countries didn't fit together. In one case, doctors rigged a catheter for an 11-year-old girl by duct taping together a Belgian tube and a German tube, and draining it into an open vegetable oil jug.

In another case, the doctors performed a painful procedure without anesthesia on a malnourished and dehydrated 6-year-old boy who was near death when he arrived at the clinic. Desperate to find an elusive vein for an I.V., they drove a needle through the bone in his tiny leg, cut an incision near the back of his bony foot, and finally went through a major vein in his neck as the lethargic child whimpered in pain. Nothing worked.

After two agonizing hours, a fresh group of doctors arrived at the compound with a simple remedy the clinic lacked: Pedialyte. With a tube running through his nose and down his throat, the small boy appeared to process the fluid, but his long-term prognosis remained tenuous.

The long-term prognosis remains tenuous for other patients as well. Most have come here from hospitals in Port-au-Prince on pastor Amicy's white school bus. The pastor drives doctors to hospitals in the city to pick up patients who need urgent care for serious wounds. In many cases, overloaded hospitals discharge such patients with nowhere to go. But many of the patients arrive at the PMH clinic still needing skin grafts or surgery for broken femurs and other wounds. Though a U.S. Navy helicopter evacuated six critical children, more remain with serious needs. When the doctors take patients to other hospitals in the capital to seek surgery, they say they are usually turned away.

One of the volunteer doctors, Jim Tierney, a pulmonologist from Boston, worries that more patients here and in similar clinics all over the city will die from complications like blood clots that are normally preventable: "It's a simple injection, twice a day, that takes three minutes," he says. "But we don't have it." Within 12 hours of my arrival at the clinic, two patients had died, possibly from blood clots.

On a bright Sunday morning, the doctors wrapped one of those patients in a white sheet and carried her to the back of the compound until a local morgue could retrieve her body. A woman next to her with a similar injury wailed, fearing a similar fate. More wailing would come with the difficult task that each morning at the clinic brings: dressing changes.

As doctors peeled away layers of gauze, some patients shouted and cried in pain. A boy with an open foot wound grimaced as doctors cleaned an area with two bones sticking out. Another woman's open wound at the bottom of an amputated leg revealed a protruding bone. A 13-year-old girl suffered a face laceration that had ripped off her ear and damaged a major nerve.

As the painful work went on, members of the local congregation lined up benches next to the church so patients could hear the worship service through the open doors and windows. As the church service began, a new sound swallowed the cries and wails in the clinic: the patients singing hymns with the outdoor congregation.

Some lifted amputated limbs in the air, and the Creole singing reverberated off the concrete walls: "The only friend I have is God/This friend always knows my trouble/His love always comforts me/His hand always dries my tears/Sweet Jesus/Sweet Jesus."

Though the clinic will eventually close, Amicy says he is preparing for construction projects and a new wave of orphans. The UN estimates thousands of children have lost one or more parents, or are separated from their families. "The people of Haiti know suffering. They grew up in it. They are going to die in it with no hope at all because nobody seems to care for them," he says. "We will care for them."

After the church service, members of the congregation visited patients, and doctors cared for Guillaume, helping her move outside. As she leaned on crutches with her amputated leg, a small group outside sang a different song: "Every step I take, Jesus will help me."

Though the work is indescribably hard, Amicy describes the scene in the hospital as a picture of how Christ cares for broken souls. He is glad his church can provide such a ministry. "We wanted to preach the gospel to Port-au-Prince," he says. "But we never expected this."

Traumatic history


1957: Voodoo physician Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier seizes power in military coup. After his death in 1971, his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" takes over.
1986: Mounting protests force Baby Doc to seek exile in France.
1988: Leslie Manigat wins presidential election, but is soon ousted by military coup.
1990: Former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide becomes Haiti's first freely elected president.
1991: Aristide is ousted in a military coup that triggers a mass exodus of Haitians.
1993: UN Security Council approves and deploys peacekeeping mission to Haiti.
1994: U.S. intervention spurs the military regime to relinquish power and Aristide returns.
1996: René Préval becomes president.
1998: Hurricane Georges claims the lives of more than 400 people and wipes out 80 percent of Haiti's crops.
2000: Aristide wins a second presidential term.
2003: Voodoo becomes an official religion in Haiti.
2004: Violent uprisings in February sparked by allegations of election fraud force Aristide into exile; an interim rebel government takes control. In May, flooding in the south leaves more than 2,000 dead or missing.
2006: Préval returns as president.
2008: Soaring food prices incite riots in April, spurring the government to cut rice prices in an emergency move to halt unrest. Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike strike Haiti in August-September, killing nearly 800 people and wiping out 70 percent of the country's crops. In November, faulty construction causes a Petionville school to collapse, killing nearly 100 children and adults.
2010: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocks Haiti on Jan. 12, toppling buildings and burying thousands of people in the rubble. Estimates are that more than 200,000 people may have perished.

Related coverage:


'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors | Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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