On the ground in Haiti -- Edward pediatric ER docs recount visit to treat children, families following catastrophic earthquake.
From Trib Local:
A 10-person tent, six old hospital beds and 200 feet of tarp to protect them from the sun.
That was the extent of the makeshift clinic where two doctors from Edward Hospital's pediatric emergency department in Naperville volunteered to help fill the gap relief workers had found following the Haiti earthquake: pediatric care.
Stocked with donated supplies and equipment, Dr. Lina AbuJamra and Dr. Jennifer McNulty spent 10 days in Haiti, treating families from that tarp-covered clinic inside a soccer stadium. They also tended to the healthcare needs of children at an orphanage and related community centers served by the Heartland Alliance relief agency.
The Heartland Alliance aims to protect child safety by stopping child trafficking. So their first assignment was to test the strength of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic - and tension was high.
"There were lots of people carrying guns around," McNulty said. "I didn't like sitting at the border for even 15 minutes. They wanted to see if they could lure a child across the border with candy, and you can. They filmed it and will show it to UNICEF."
Driving into Haiti, the American doctors thought the landscape didn't look so bad. Maybe the media had overhyped the earthquake, AbuJamra said.
Then they approached Port-au-Prince. House after house had been leveled.
"We all got into doctor mode then," she said. "I was able to process everything in a very emergency doctor fashion. I personally don't think any of the stories hit me to the core until I started driving away from Haiti - that was the first time I cried."
Their team saw kids with diarrhea, fever, parasites, scabies and some acute injuries related to the earthquake. McNulty treated a baby with a depressed skull fracture - amazingly, the baby's skull bone was broken but the brain was fine, AbuJamra said.
"We saw a lot of wounds that ... weren't appropriately cared for, shoulder dislocations from two weeks prior," she said.
She said they also worried about cholera, typhoid and other diseases that were prevalent even before the earthquake hit. While they considered themselves fortunate to have the turf of the soccer field beneath them, they shared the space with a tent city that was 20,000 people strong. McNulty recalled the stench.
"They did not have appropriate toilet facilities, and the smell reminded you of that because they were just going outside - and not far from where we were," she said.
The dense population presented another challenge: keeping up with medical supplies. That's when McNulty, chosen as their team leader, called in reinforcements.
From back in the U.S., her husband Kevin McNulty raised more than $20,000 and 400 tons of medications from Edward and Children's Memorial Hospital and sent it all on a plane owned by Baxter Healthcare Corp.
"We met the plane on the runway and were able to keep running our clinic," AbuJamra said.
But the best examples of overcoming hardships were the Haitian people themselves, according to McNulty.
"They were taking care of their children, making sure they got food and water, putting themselves as adults second," she said. "People did not smell bad. They kept their kids really clean. They kind of had that pride in their appearance despite their situation. I was very struck by that. It makes you want to help them more."
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services