Healthcare workers from Cooper University Hospital treating wounded Haitians in the Dominican Republic were troubled to learn Saturday morning that 40 patients they’d treated at the border town of Jimani had been shipped out to Haiti by the Dominican government.
FILED BY SUSAN PHILLIPS, BACK FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:
Healthcare workers from Cooper University Hospital who are in the Dominican Republic treating wounded Haitians got a surprise Saturday morning when they showed up for their shift at one of the hospitals in the border town of Jimani. The Dominican government had shipped out 40 patients recovering from recent amputations and battling infection across the border into Haiti.
On Saturday morning, the hospital once teeming with patients lying on the floors and hallways was beginning to look eerily empty . Flatbed trucks lined with mattresses had pulled up and begun taking patients away. Those unable to walk were loaded onto the makeshift ambulance.
Several patients had what the American doctor’s call an “X-Fix” — or what looks like an erector set creation attached to her leg. It’s a method of setting broken bones, unknown to most of the Dominican doctors, but now a frequent site in the town of Jimani. An X-fix needs specific care to prevent infection, as do the raw open wounds so common among Haitians treated in Jimani . So when doctors and nurses from Cooper University found their patients were wisked away, they were worried. Sacha Montas is an emergency medicine doctor from Michigan, working with the group.
Montas: “Well especially for the wounds if you don’t take care of them, they can get infected, either lose a limb, or more of a limb you already lost, not to mention sepsis, which is overwhelming infection of the entire body.”
And which, doctors say, can lead to death.
The patients had been loaded onto trucks, each clutching an X-ray, with medical information pinned to their clothes. An assistant director to the Dominican Ministry of Health assured the doctors that the facility across the border is safe and effective. But they weren’t not convinced, so they hopped on the truck to see for themselves. The seven mile journey across the border on a bumpy dirt road takes about an hour, into the Haitian town of Fond Parisien.
They arrived to find a metal gate, with bars in the shape of heart, and a sign reading “Love Child Village.” When guards waved them in, the team pulled up to several brightly painted yellow buildings that turned out to be the school for an orphanage that has been converted into a post-operative care center.
Once there they meet Hilarie Kramer, with the Harvard Humanitarian Mission, and offered to help with tending the patients’ wounds.
Kramer: “Having the wound care team, just means…you just gave me a happy moment, look, happy moment….laughter…I’m really happy you guys are here, and if you can stay for a couple of days that’s great, and you can help out.”
The doctors were impressed by Hilarie and the facility. But many wounded Haitians lay outside on mattresses, braving the blazing sun and risking dehydration, rather than entering a building they feared might collapse on top of them.
Cooper emergency medical doctor Josh Torres-Cruz is elated.
Torres-Cruz: ‘Yesterday was the biggest emotional low for us, we were caring for 50 patients and doing daily wound changes and one day they picked up and disappeared, almost like they went to nowhere, obviously we found out they went to a good place so that’s an emotional high, so we went from an emotional low to an emotional high.”
The facility is currently caring for about 300 patients and their family members, and being fed by the orphanage. The Cooper team plans to camp out there until they return to the United States at the end of this week.