Tuesday, February 2, 2010


This will give you a true insight of the horror these people are suffering. It is just heart breaking!

E-Mail Sent on 1/19/10
Days 1 – 4 (1/16, 16, 18, 19)
We have been in Port au Prince for 4 days and it seems like 4 months and another planet. We were some of the first here and have been working at the city hospital triaging and treating. Another nurse (Candy Thompson) and I set up the pharmacy and supply center for three organizations here at the hospital. Supplies are from so many organizations.

We are seeing hundreds every day and there are hundreds more in a tent city outside the hospitals. Many orthopedic surgeries, wound debridemen’s, burns, traumatic amputations and treatments after amputations. There is no way to save legs or arms, we have to amputate. A woman was brought in by her son who had been at home for 8 days trapped by debris. She has traumatic amputations of her left arm and leg with gangrene. Everybody gets tetanus and antibiotic. A lot of work with pain control. Thank God for the donated morphine, fentanyl and other narcotics.

But what really shines is the dignity and stoicism of the Haitians and their gratitude for whatever help is given. They stay with their injured. The hospital closes at dark (no electricity) and families attend them.

The 82nd Airborne is now here providing security. Red Cross arrived today (1/19) and will provide meals starting tonight for patients and families (we have been giving from out meager supplies, though we have a lot of water)

Tomorrow there will be centralization of all services which will be great for the most.

BTW, I met Bill Clinton yesterday on his rounds, shook his hand and told him we were expecting him to do big things here for these wonderful people and this great country. I told him I loved the Haitians and he leaned down and said in my ear “I love them too”.

This is my third visit to Haiti in this past year, but is so different. Seeing the international community and all that is being done is unbelievable.

I am safe (but sleeping on a brick patio) and have had one cold shower (don't get too close). Not sure when I will be back, but I do know we are doing great work and I have never felt so satisfied and alive in my life. I have been working with nurses, doctors and others from all over the world.

Much love to all and please pass this on as appropriate

Mary (Monna) Lesperance

Ps: Before I left at dusk, there was not much I could do, so I went to each patient and listened to their lungs and heart and told them how well they were doing. It may not have made any difference in their outcome, but it made me and (hopefully) them feel better.
End of E-mail

Day 5, 6, 7 (for me – 1/20, 21, 22) after leaving the general hospital are spent at a tent city at Carrefour - very poor section of Port au Prince. (This is the day of the 6:00 am 6.1 aftershock when everything shook, I fell down, more rocks fell at our hotel, and more buildings came down. Everyone was crying and screaming. It sounded like a roaring surf coming in)

As we were getting ready to leave the general hospital, we saw our first case of tetanus. What a horrible, horrible site. This is the beginning of the incubation period and they expect many more. I go back in and find a box of tetanus toxoid and bring with us. The drive to Carrefour is about 30 minutes and very rugged with almost no buildings left standing and none undamaged. We pass the ship Comfort in the sea – what a beautiful site.

At the Don Bosco school in Carrefour, there are more than 5,000 in tents. There is a clinic there already run by a Haitian nurse, Kiki, whose brother Clerje runs the area. Kiki and her assistants are very professional and skilled and are taking care of wounds – changing dressings, debriding and treating huge, open, gaping wounds and burns. People are screaming with pain, but don’t move and sit waiting for it to finish – and many are being done daily! Two big wounds are waiting for us, one a man with a closed femur fracture and head wound and a woman with a huge open thigh wound where we can see the tendons and bones.

The other ARNP (Margaret Bortko) and an ER MD start seeing patients while I start drawing up toxoid to give. There is a volunteer who is former Sgt Major, 18 Delta, Special Forces (SF) and he helps me as we prepare to inject all wounded patients first. Then we give to everyone else. There are no small needles for babies, so we pull up and then push into insulin syringes. All told, we do over 250 immunizations before we run out. We give antibiotics to all open wounds. Thank God for the huge amount of donated antibiotics, both oral and injectable that is available I know it is saving many lives.

Back to main hospital at dusk - we bring the woman with the open wound and broken leg. We make a splint out of cardboard and tape and use a sheet to lift her into the van. I give her a vicodan and ativan before we move her and we deliver her to the orthopedics intake. What a change at the hospital site– there are hospital tents all over and the people who were under trees and in the open are now in beds under tents and the Red Cross is providing food for patients and families and the wonderful 82nd Airborne soldiers are guarding us. Inside the change is dramatic also as more and more organizations arrive and take over our rudimentary beginnings!

Second day is only Margaret and me and Rick our ex S-F guy who is fantastic – what a fabulous man – he starts seeing patients with us. That’s when the babies start arriving – such very, very sick babies. I hold one beautiful little girl about two months old – dressed in pink and white – in my arms and thought she was going to die there. She was completely flaccid with no responses, and gasping breaths. I consulted with Margaret and we agreed she had massive infection. Thank God for Epocrates (my medical program on my phone). I mixed largest allowable doses of Ceftriaxone and Ampicillin and injected into her thighs while Margaret crushed prednisone in water and dripped it down her throat. We give her to the parents with instructions to bring her back the next day (wondering if we will ever see her again) and went on to more patients. I pray constantly, we consult frequently, and all three of us feel that we have to do whatever we can, and that whatever we do could not be more harmful than doing nothing. This day we are able to bring back our man with the closed femur fracture. His leg is grossly swollen and red despite antibiotics.

Third day in Carrefour (day 7 for me) is the worst, - children after children after children – and they are all so very, very sick. However, the three sickest from yesterday (including my baby in pink) come back and they look better. I am so thrilled, but won’t say I don’t worry about the future, but right now they are alive and doing better than yesterday. We give them second day injections and mix medications for parents to take home and continue giving.

The worst is that they never stop coming and they are all so sick. After several hours I hold one baby and just lose it. I give the baby back to his mother and excuse myself. I go over to the classroom and just cry and cry and try to get myself back together. I feel so helpless and overwhelmed. David Albers, the photojournalist, follows me and just holds me and lets me talk. What a strong, wonderful man. I finally pull myself together and ask for a few minutes to pray. I pray to God and the Blessed Virgin, asking for guidance and strength. After a minute or two more, I am able to return (& even laugh when the translator chastises me for leaving the patient so long!). I finish the rest of the day with strength, but feel badly as everyone is watching me to see if I break again!!

Today also was the day I start seeing scabies – babies and children covered with them. No way to treat as there is no way to treat their blankets, tents, or the other 5000 people. Horrible.

Also today, I saw Post Traumatic Stress victims for the first time. The only thing I could do is tell their family to keep talking to them about what happened, reassuring them that they are alive and being helped, and to pray out loud together as a family on a regular basis (Who knows, maybe prayer is the only answer, but I encouraged it for everyone and asked them to pray for me and I would pray for them)

Some of the hardest sights and sounds to date:
Bodies upon bodies and the odor and ooze in the streets from the bodies
People wailing in the street for their dead – worst at night
Giving people medication and they have no water to take it with and no food at all
The inability to treat the pain while debriding, cutting and caring for wounds and burns. The burns are awful

My biggest fears:
The future deaths to come
Generations of amputees in a society where if you can’t work you can’t eat

I must end here. Continue to pray for the people of Haiti. I am scheduled to come back in May (was already planned), but not sure when I will be back

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