Cooper team grapples with death, while trying to heal

    Healthcare workers from all over the world caring for wounded Haitians at a border town in the Dominican Republic, amputating limbs and setting bones. A team of professionals from Cooper University Hospital traveled to the town of Jimani to help. But the question remains, how will the patients continue to receive essential post-operative care.

    Cooper University Hopsital workers in Jimani, Dominican Republic

    Health care workers from all over the world are caring for wounded Haitians at a border town in the Dominican Republic, amputating limbs and setting bones. A team of professionals from Cooper University Hospital traveled to the town of Jimani to help. But the question remains, how will the patients continue to receive essential post-operative care.

    A two-story building attached to a mission overlooks a dusty courtyard, where Dominican children play and dogs lie sleeping in the hot sun. But on the second floor of the cement facility, ten children lie on cots, some with casts on their legs, some just newly born, and one eight-year-old recently had her leg amputated. She starts screaming for God as soon as she sees the doctors moving toward her.

    The young girl is dehydrated and her stump wound needs cleaning.

    Her mother explains that just days before the earthquake, she had begged to go stay with her aunt in the country. But the mother said no, that she had to go to school. She now blames herself.

    Wounded earthquake vicitm

    Cooper University Hospital nurse Nancy Cadet holds the little girl’s hand and speaks to her in Creole as the doctor changes her wound. Cadet says the girl is having a hard time both physically and emotionally.

    Cadet: It’s a very traumatic experience for her, so she’s experiencing post traumatic stress so every time someone touches her, just think, shes a little girl she’s just lost her leg, so anytime someone in the medical field comes close to her, she thinks she’s gonna lose another part of her body. So we leave her till last so we can take a lot of time with her. She also takes a lot of personnel, cause little as she is she’s very strong.

    Cadet says the patients are using faith to survive.

    Cadet: Even though they’ve been through so much, I can get stories of what happened to them but they pray a lot and they sing spirituals and that keeps them going. And so they’re not questioning why god did this, they’re just keeping their faith in God to get them through it.

    Cadet says she doesn’t know if the little girl will ever get a prosthetic limb, or what kind of rehabilitation she’ll receive.

    Trauma surgeon Ju Lin Wang worked all day at a hospital on the other side of town.

    Wang: When you amputate them, they’re alive, they won’t die from the gangrene but they’re not living until they get back to normal.

    Wang worked for two hours on a patient who suffered second and third degree burns on 40 percent of his body after a building collapsed on his truck, carrying propane. The man waited outside a hospital in Port Au Prince for days before being sent to Jimani and then, to the Cooper crew.

    cooper 1Wang: Even though we have anesthesia capabilities now, there’s not facilities for post operative recovery rooms. And the amount of equipment we have at our disposal in the United States compared to here, it really makes you realize how lucky you are compared to people here, how lucky you are to live in the states, if you want to transfer someone to a burn center, its done just like that.

    But Wang says without treatment at a burn center in the U.S., the man will probably die.

    Orlando Debessa, a doctor in Cooper’s intensive care unit, says he had a good productive day in the operating room, which happens to lie right next to the morgue.

    Debessa: We saw caskets in the back, little baby caskets, and I don’t think it hit home for all of us until we saw that today. That’s really sad you know.

    The team wants to continue to provide care by rotating doctors down to the border town.

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