A humble good bye
The last few days have been manic, and subsequently this won’t be my most imaginative blog as I’m exhausted, but feeling positive about the developments that have already been made.
The majority of the last few days have been spent working on a plan with MSF to use our site for a 200 bed cholera referral centre. The main facility which MSF are running at the moment is incredibly over crowded with over 300 patients, and despite the amazing work they are doing, it’s an impossible environment to serve the expected numbers of new patients as the cholera continues to grow out of control. Subsequently, in the next few days our site will be transformed into a special referral centre, and within days we could have over 100 patients. Large tents will be erected, and about 160 national staff recruited. It’s a huge operation, but a great privilege to be involved.
Nate Nickerson, the director of Konbit Sante also managed to arrive in Haiti today after being stuck in Florida because of the riots. Thankfully things seemed back to normal today, except for the sad reminders of the violence littered along the road to Cap. Black marks across the road, some glass and remains of road blocks, and the odd burnt our car and police station. Nate and I met with Oxfam and a number of other community leaders to develop a plan that will commence on Monday to initiate an urgently need prevention programme in the worst affected area. The plan in simple terms is to get every family in that area a large bucket, and water purification tablets, so each family has access to clean water. There are other arms attached to this which I’ll share when I’m a little more awake.
It seems every patient who has arrived at our centre today has cholera. The incidents are increasing rapidly, and one Mayor I spoke to yesterday seemed to believe that within a year at least 3 million people could be infected. 30 people died in our area last week, and still we haven’t reached the peak. It’s a difficult and frustrating time, and the pressure is really mounting as Cap-Haitien (where we work) now has the highest rate of cholera related mortalities in the country. This 200 bed referral centre and prevention work will make a huge difference, and right now I can’t wait for all the final nitty gritty details to be ironed out.
After a long day of meetings today, I returned this evening to crack on with some funding proposals for the longer term vision of the hospital, only to be interrupted by a quiet knock on the door. One of our staff quietly said there was an emergency in a manner which was clearly a call for me to come and help. As I walked down the corridor I was greeted by our staff, one who explained that a child had just been bought into the clinic with cholera but had sadly died. The child was beyond help, and despite our best efforts passed away almost immediately. It was the forth death we’ve faced in a week at our centre, and the first child. The parents left swiftly, and their little girl lay alone upon a bed within a ward already overcrowded with new patients today.
The local authorities are meant to help deal with such cases as the corpses of cholera victims can be extremely dangerous. Unfortunately we didn’t have much luck getting the support we needed, and it was left to me to do my best and sort out the situation. After a long discussion with our Medical Director via phone, and a fortunate find on the internet about preparing a body, I commenced with the tragic and humbling role of preparing this beautiful little girls body. It was without doubt one of the hardest and most harrowing things I’ve ever had to do. As well as a deep sadness, I was also angry in side that Haiti’s tragic past and the apathy of the world towards poverty in general is now reeking such havoc here. There was a first incident of Cholera in the US the other day, but you won’t hear much more about that, as the chances of it spreading are minimal. In a country like Haiti where only about 17% of the population have adequate sanitation, it’s no wonder this situation is getting out of control. Kids toilet and play in the same area, sewage gurgles down the street, and homes are built upon rubbish tips.
After preparing her little body we all stood around her side and I asked one of the staff to lead a little prayer as we said our humble good bye. She now rests in one of the body bags I bought over in a small, isolated room alone. If only she’d had clean water, or parents with a little more education who could have realsied the danger, then she’d probably still be alive. Surely clean water, sanitation and a basic education isn’t too much to ask for in 2010?
1:30am and an unfortunate update. Just as I’d finished the blog above and put it up on the web, another patient sadly died. Another humble good bye. Please support our appeal to help save lives. The situation here is getting more desperate by the day, and your support and prayers really can make a difference.