The Hopital Sacre Couer had expanded and transformed into a tent hospital city for earthquake victims while maintaining the original hospital building for the care of the community. The hospital campus was filled with physicians, surgeons, medical personnel and volunteers from all over the US and other parts of the world. And even though six weeks had passed since the earthquake, much of the work at hand was acute care and people were doing whatever was needed–often things they don’t customarily do. Our goal was to try and close as many wounds as would be problematic otherwise and then to at least see all the rest and make some sort of decision about treatment. The work included orthopedic cases and anesthesia for 12 – 15 patients a day over 6 days.
It was very stressful–everything felt urgent and we couldn’t come close to doing everything that needed to be done. Sometimes you’d think, “What can I honestly DO here?” The truth is we can’t fix a country or undo a disaster, but we can help one person and then another and another. In the end, the individuals we help are so appreciative.
I think this is a key thing to understand. The resilience of the Haitian people is just mind-boggling. There’s none of this “woe is me” stuff; no “Why did this happen to me?” Inside the tents what we saw was truly devastating–kids without arms and legs or with horrible extremity injuries. Every other baby had lost both parents. And we also saw a joyful, resilient people–very appreciative and polite–who reminded us of how much we have and how little one really needs. We’d walk into a tent filled with people who are dealing with absolutely the most difficult situations you can imagine. They are smiling and glad to see us. They clearly haven’t given up. Kids who’ve lost a foot or a leg, hopping around on crutches, trying to play soccer; little ones reaching up and asking “Who you?” or “Who that?”
In the end, bottom line its as much for us as it is for them to go down there. We come back better for having gone. We remember what’s important, that we don’t need a lot to be happy, how much we truly have and how being grateful for what you have is joyful.