Heidi’s Diary, Part II

A few days ago I posted a diary entry from a pastor’s daughter named Heidi who is volunteering as a nurse in Haiti.  I don’t know Heidi—I don’t even know her last name—the diary entries are being forwarded by a friend who knows her father.  But these entries give me a feel for the situation there that I haven’t been able to get from watching the news or reading the papers.  The last paragraph, especially, is something you probably won’t find in the public media.

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January 28

Since I worked until after 4 a.m. today another nurse said he would cover icu for me for awhile while i tried to sleep.  It’s hard to sleep. I wake up thinking of everything that has to be done.  The way it is now there are so many medications that have to be given and there are not enough nurses to get that done.  I spent some time with the translator today.  They have transformed a high school into the “Emergency Room”  There are about 15 rooms.  Inside each room there are anywhere from 6 to 12 patients each.  Men and women share the rooms.  Some are even sharing beds so they have a place to sleep.  Since I started a little later this morning I volunteered to work E.R.  I rounded to each room with the translator asking patients what they needed, who had pain, who had questions.  The biggest concern was that they are hungry.  We were able to get rice and beans and some oatmeal for the ones who were hungry.  Here in Haiti it is normal to only eat one meal a day.  I’m sure there is some variety but it always appears to me to be the same.  Some sort of mixture of rice and beans and spices.  We did our best to get everyone fed.  I took the late shift tonight.  I spent time in each room medicating people for pain and also administering IV antibiotics that no one had a chance to give today.  We are seeing more and more infection and sepsis.  There are not enough of us to give 300 patients antibiotics three times per day.  We are doing the very best we can.  I also spent time with the haitian nurses today along with the translator.  I talked with them about their practice and in a positive way tried to teach them about some of the errors they are making with medication administration.  For them it is a challenge because a lot of times they do not have the supplies necessary to administer meds the best way.

We received great news today that the US army will be setting up a mobile 300 bed hospital.  This is huge.  There are still patients coming in on helicopters.  I watched them bring an older woman (I would guess her to be 70) on a stretcher.  She got my attention because she was lying on her stomach on the stretcher.  When we uncovered her we saw that her entire back, bottom, and upper legs were missing skin.  I was able to get ahold of her chart and saw that her mattress caught on fire and she was not able to get up.  She was trying to care for them for almost 2 weeks before getting the help she needs.  I heard from another doctor that a plastic surgeon should be arriving sometime next week (if flights can be arranged.)  There is another girl here who had cinder blocks fall on her face.  Her face is so badly fractured and she has not eaten for days.  Today doctors put a tube in her belly that goes straight to the stomach.  We received a donation of baby formula and we are using that to give her nutrition.  She will also see the plastic surgeon to see if her jaw can be reattached so that she will be able to eat at some point.  

The earthquake may be over but these people will be suffering for a long time to come.  They need therapy, prosthetics, and time to adjust to these major changes. I have heard they are trying to arrange for a group of physical therapists to come soon to teach these people how to ambulate without limbs.

I will leave you with this positive image.  Tonight around ten it got pretty quiet at the ER.  I was still rounding and checking on patients.  The sound became louder and louder as each room joined in.  The people were singing songs of praise to God.  I just stopped and listened.  It lightened my load.  Through all this suffering and pain and confusion and chaos…they are praising our God.   WOW!  It brought me to tears and reminded me that when I feel down about my situation/circumstances I have to remember that I am chosen and am victorious!!!

Love you and miss you.

Heidi

Warning: Not for the Faint of Heart

A friend forwarded this e-mail from a pastor’s daughter who is working in Haiti with a medical mission team from Missouri.  Her description of what she has seen since her arrival is graphic; reader discretion is advised.  But this first-person account brings home the reality of the Haitian earthquake in a way nothing else I have read or seen has.  As I wrote to my friend in reply: “It drove me to my knees.”

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You just would not believe the things i have seen.  people everywhere with missing limbs. 2 babies died today.  one man died with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) bc they ran out of heparin.  our team brought heparin.  they are sick and lying on stretchers and bleeding. one nurse broke down today and said that last tuesday they were just cutting people limbs off that were crushed and they had nowhere to dispose of the body parts so they stacked them in front of the hospital for days.  when the smell became too much someone took care of them.  these people are young.  younger than me.  i havent seen an old person yet.  avg life expectancy is 51.  i feel so horrible.  they don’t have what they need and we are watching them die.  the nurses in haiti are terrible.  they don’t know how to care for their patients.  i have worked since we arrived at 2 with a short break to eat at 8.  i went back to check on my icu patient’s and the nurse that was caring for them was fast asleep.  i am learning pediatrics quickly.  so many babies that are sick.  some patients don’t have food to eat.  the hospital cannot feed them so if family does not bring food they simply do not eat.  i dont even want to eat.  the smells and sights have been overwhelming.  it is so primitive and i am having to be creative with supplies.  today i made a tourniqet with a rubber glove as i pinned a whaling 9 year old down.  they shaved skin from her thigh to graft skin to the lower section of her leg.  she left the or with no iv access.  i had to get a line in her to medicate her.  her parents were no where to be found.  i wanted to talk to her to calm her but i can’t understand the language.  even those fluent in french say it is no help.  the creole and slang is way too different.  i finally took a shower.  it was a slow drip and cold, but it was water.  i have sweat all day.  the hospital is a humid and hot building.  i think my comfort at this point is so menial.  pray for us and that more supplies will arrive.  we are in desperate need of medicines.  pray that i can be quick on my feet.  pray that my headache will go away and that the nausea will stop.  

i love you all.  i will try to keep in touch.  the internet is patchy here.

heidi