Healing Kids in Haiti, Pt. 1

April 8, 2010

By James S. Gordon MD

I’m back in Haiti, with Lee Ann, who manages our programs for population-wide psychological healing and Star who translated for us last time; Rosemary is in DC taking care of business. We are exploring partnerships, doing workshops for kids and caregivers. In Port-au-Prince there are no fewer people living in tents or on the streets, but more of them seem out and about, vertical even animated – selling and shopping, crowding toward tanks to fill bottles of drinking water (lots of small kids have been designated for this job) talking and moving with volume and even grace.

Last night and today we spend time at the University Hospital, where we are received with great courtesy by the Director Dr. Alix Lassegue and Marlaine Thompson, the nurse who acts as his deputy. Everyone there is working heroically, at and beyond maximum capacity: only 30% of the physicians have returned to work and 50% of the nurses: “Some, Dr. Lassegue says, have died, some have left the country, and some….” His voice trails off. Most of the work of the hospital, which is Haiti’s largest and most important, is still conducted in the tents which fill its grounds. This is slowly changing, Dr. Lassegue tells us, as engineers ensure, department by department, that the structure is safe; soon the emergency room will once again be indoors.

Today we do a mini-workshop for kids at the Hospital, gathering them from the tents where they have been staying, and from the line outside the pediatric out-patient department. A sweet shadow-thin teenage girl, Vania, has insulin dependent diabetes; Ruth a tiny six-year old girl and seven-year old Roberto have infections that resist all antibiotic assaults; Ruth’s mother walks beside her holding her IV bottle. Almost every child, we learn, has lost a family member or someone close to them.

To be continued tomorrow . . . .