Update from Haiti: The New Reality of MFK’s Work in Post-quake Haiti

Dr. Pat Wolff and others from the Meds & Food for Kids team are on the ground in Cap-Haitian, approximately 150 miles north of Port-au-Prince. They’ve been providing regular updates via email on their efforts to get Medika Mamba into the hands of those who need it most. On Wednesday, Dr. Wolff provided a glimpse into the new reality of MFK’s work in post-quake Haiti. 

In Port au Prince, the smell of bodies is everywhere. Finding food and water is a daily struggle. Our coordinator, Papillon, briefly went to Miami to receive treatment for his arm injury and then returned to Port au Prince to help out as best he can. He has led us to groups of people who are under the radar of the big relief agencies, but need help finding food. One kilogram of Medika Mamba can feed five kids for a day. So far we have distributed the equivalent of 25,000 child days of food.

We’ve been attending various meetings with the UN and the Haitian government once or twice a week in Cap-Haitien where we hear rumors and some actual facts, but it’s only a week or so later that we’re able to figure out which is which. For example, we heard that the U.S. Navy was taking over the port of Cap-Haitien. That was two weeks ago and it has not happened. Then we heard that the capital and the government of Haiti were moving to Cap-Haitien to occupy the new buildings that were built for the Cap-Haitien government just outside of town. That does not seem to be happening either.

We also heard that huge tent cities were going to be built for Port au Prince refugees. That does not seem to be materializing. Incredibly thousands and thousands of refugees have just been incorporated into the homes and life of the city. School just reopened this week.

Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, founded and funded by CRUDEM, has done an extraordinary job of bringing in the necessary resources and professionals to respond to the medical needs after the earthquake. They have expanded capacity by converting the lobby to accommodate patient beds, converting a nearby school into a hospital and setting up a tent city of MASH-like tents for patient care. To supply this huge operation they have successfully imported tons of medical supplies.

Because of the large number of spinal cord injuries that happened in the quakes, Sacre Coeur has many patients with quadriplegia or paraplegia. After several weeks, any improvements among these patients will happen very slowly. A newly built and never used UK Baptist hospital about 10 miles from Sacre Coeur offered to open their facility for the longer-term care of these spinal cord patients. They had no equipment or supplies though — just space, beds, doctors and nurses. I offered to go to Milot to find whether there were medical supplies available for sharing.

I found an American nun who is also a pediatric ER doctor at Johns Hopkins whom I have known for a few years. She introduced me to Celia, who offered to make all of my dreams come true. Celia walked me through tent after tent and outdoor pile after pile of antibiotics, wound dressings, IV paraphernalia, bladder catheters, etc. etc.

I was loading all of this into the Meds & Food for Kids Toyota when the Medical Director of Sacre Coeur hospital asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was helping to supply the hospital where the Sacre Coeur spinal cord injured patients were being transferred for long term care. After a few minutes of discussion, it was clear that he was generally feeling that his authority was being usurped by this invasion of do-gooder American and UK doctors and nurses. Of course he wanted to share, but he was responsible for all of these imports and he needed me to make a list of what I was taking. This was very reasonable and I complied. Then we took off for the drive to the brand new, never-been-used UK Baptist Hospital with our loot.

When we arrived, there were four spinal cord injured patients in air conditioning!!! And two more in an ambulance on the way. We unloaded and stacked the boxes, had a short discussion with the doctor and nurses and took off. If I can’t find a rehabilitation specialist to write some protocols for treatment of these patients, I guess I will be writing the protocols to help the Haitian doctors out. Are there any such specialists looking for a trip to the tropics immediately?

On the way back to the factory, we stopped at the orphanage and school of the Sisters Salesian de Don Bosco. The sisters arrived on our doorstep a week ago because they needed food. We sent a letter to the logistics guy at the World Food Program and that did the trick. So this week the sisters returned with their water problems. Seems that everybody gets a stomach ache from their well and they cannot afford to buy bottled water. Luckily, we have volunteer Jerome Flogel here. Jerome took the opportunity to briefly escape from Duluth, MN where he is a water consultant and a diesel mechanic specialist. He’s been completely overhauling our two Toyota trucks and mentoring our Haitian mechanic.

We put Jerome on the nuns’ water case and he is now discerning whether the well is infected or just has very high mineral content. We are all happy to be of service and the nuns are delighted.

With deep gratitude for the huge support that we have received from all of you,

Pat