Notes on Haiti - CEO Journal Part 12

Haiti – Eastman with patient

Note: While serving a medical mission to Haiti, Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder is writing dispatches about medical aid in progress, conditions on the ground and what can be done to help earthquake victims. For other journal entries, see the Haiti news page.

Dr. Brent Eastman, Rob Sills and I returned back to San Diego late last night and I can tell you that we are very happy to be home. At the same time, we had an odd reaction returning from Haiti, where there is great need, to our community which, in comparison, is safe and rich in resources. It’s hard to explain but I suspect it will take us a few days to get back into a normal routine. I also think it will be a long time — if ever — for the sights, sounds, smells, and our Haitian patients and their families to fade from our daily memory.

For me, the mission continues as we have eight physicians and nurses still in Haiti. Dr. Shackford, Patty Skoglund and Kelly Hardiman are staying in routine contact with me, so let me give you an update from them:

As you might recall, we had six cases scheduled for yesterday but were ready to handle whatever presented. Well, as of 4 p.m. yesterday, the team had completed 17 cases and one of the Maryland physicians was still operating on a child. They had eight more cases scheduled for today. The hospital has 86 inpatients (maybe outpatients since they are all sleeping outside) and the hospital is getting busier. It appears as if word is getting out that the hospital is open and functioning, so many Haitians are coming for care. Up to this point, most of the issues have been related to the earthquake (infected wounds, debridements, etc.), but now more medical and unrelated issues are presenting to the hospital and our team.

This is what Dr. Shackford said: “We are functioning very well with our colleagues from Maryland. We are all in good spirits. Drs. Mike Capozza and Todd Austin have been busier than a one-armed paper hanger. Kelly, Deb, Patty and Maureen have kept the schedule, transported patients to and from the OR, recovered all of the patients, and done extra duty in the wound tent. Simply stated, they are professionals and their performance has been nothing short of outstanding under what must be considered an austere environment.”

Kelly Hardiman reported: “Had a great day today. We got PACU humming and guess what — the Haitian nurses joined us! They actually have post op records and recover patients much the same way we do. Progress!”

Dr. Shackford also just sent another update a few minutes ago: “We are winding down. Dr. Drew Peterson is finishing the last case. St. Francois is truly the Phoenix. Nursing staff has returned. There is a functioning laundry. Our record keeping process is working beautifully. According to Bob, triage has seen 300 patients and the wound tent treated 116 today.”

So the work in Haiti continues, and every day it appears to get better. But the long-term need will be great and the human cost enormous. It is very difficult to explain unless you have been there.

I am going to send a note to each of the mission participants today asking them to send me a short paragraph, in their own words, about their experience in Haiti. I’d like to share these with you as I think you will find their thoughts interesting and valuable. While we are all very different people, I suspect there will be some commonality in our reactions to the mission.

And now that I’m back home, for now, let me thank each of you one more time for your comments, advice and willingness to help either on the mission or here at home with our most important mission. Not a day went by in Haiti when we did not think of you. Knowing that you were here at home supporting us was VERY important to our team.

Chris Van Gorder

See the Haiti news page for other journal entries.