The team flew from Port-au-Prince into Cap Haitien, not St. Louis de Nord as they’d expected, and took a bone-rattling open-air truck ride on rough roads to Bon Samaritain Hospital in Limbe. Cap Haitien is on the northern coast of Haiti and is about the size, in terms of population, of Roanoke and Roanoke County combined. Limbe is a much smaller city that’s about 15 miles inland.
Beth reported a chaotic situation: not enough supplies and virtually no coordination. Vanessa Carpenter was working the phones to try to get medical supplies trucked in to the team, while her chief nurse, Kez Furth, is working in another town named Cabaret doing triage in a dozen or so tents.
Beth checked in this morning with an update that she doesn’t expect to leave Limbe until Tuesday, rather than today. She’s also expecting to talk about her journey with Roanoke-based WVTF and Public Radio International’s The World program, possibly today, so keep an ear out alert public radio listeners. If we get a more specific air time or other details, we’ll pass them on.
Some dispatches Beth sent via Facebook:
“Hard to describe what I’m seeing here in this forgotten corner of Haiti, but I look forward to being rested enough to do it justice at home. At a hospital in Limbe, people are lying in cots in their own waste; 12 people have already died. But many are getting better. Vanessa’s … just as her husband, Tom, predicted: Mach 3 with her hair on fire.”
“I watched Dr. Chi [Dr. Chiedza Jokonya of Maine] bring a baby back from the brink today. She had to stick a gastric tube down the 1-year-old boy’s nose. We’d seen the baby last night and he wasn’t doing well, but then the dad (wearing a Che Guevera shirt and looking really menacing to me at first last night — then again that was my mood) turns out to be super sweet. He follows me around today until I will come and see that his boy’s belly is super swollen. So I go fetch Dr. Chi who’s super busy but she comes finally — she’s really amazing. I feel like I’m in the presence of Albert Schweitzer and Paul Farmer combined, truly! She just won an international humanitarian award this week for her work in Zimbabwe (where she’s from and where she runs a foundation) and in Haiti (where she goes twice a year). But then we don’t have the tube piece for him, and we have to go to the pharmacy and buy one. The boy doesn’t have cholera, but the staff is so overwhelmed that they treated him for cholera along with everyone else. He has pneumonia and now really advanced sepsis. So she put the tube down his nose and sucked out this brown ooze for 15 minutes, and then she finally figured out he hadn’t eaten in a week. Though she wondered if that was partly because the family is so poor. ”So he’s starving on top of everything else.”
She has me go get a bag of IV sugar solution to put in with his antibiotic from the pharmacy. The dad was so grateful. The boy’s name is Saint Duval. Say a prayer for him. he’s laying there on this soiled cot with no diaper on, and his dad is worried sick about him.
Sounds from the cholera shelter: The slap of a doctor’s hand on a child’s arm, trying to raise a vein. A baby whimpering. The crinkle of plastic wrap as a woman recycles the IV packaging discarded by a nurse as a germ shield — wrapping it around her foot. An old man in a cowboy hat humming his wife to sleep. A young man with Dengue fever and legs afire who wants me to know, in perfect English: “I am a teacher.”
Early Monday morning
“A baby came in last night around 4 a.m., unresponsive. Lalaine Llanto, one of the residents, was on call. … The dad said [the child had] gotten sick the day before, vomiting and diarrhea. She asked him, ‘Why are you just now bringing him in?’
Because he’s unresponsive, the father replied.
“He didn’t know the symptoms; he didn’t know how deadly fast cholera operates.
Everyone here thinks the cases and deaths we’re seeing is just tip of iceberg. This disease hits people so fast, they’re worried they’re just not getting here in time. By the time Lalaine got two IVs into the boy, he was already breathing the death rattle. ‘In the U.S. I could’ve intubated him, to make him breathe. I could’ve given him meds to get his heart beating. But he literally died right in front of me. I couldn’t do anything.’
Beth ran into a little trouble when a video flip cam she was using was stolen by some bandits on a motorcycle as she was riding in the back of a truck. She reports, however, that she feels fine and safe and is awe of medical team’s work
Read an earlier post on the trip here.
– Brian Kelley, metro editor