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Johns Hopkins in Haiti

Reports from Haiti

Johns Hopkins people are on the ground in Haiti to provide care and relief to the people of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and more are expected there soon. Below are some reports direct from the front lines.

I. A team comes out, a team goes in

The Johns Hopkins Go Team unit that spent two weeks at University Hospital in Port-au-Prince has wrapped up its tour of duty, but four more doctors and nurses from Johns Hopkins have now deployed. They left Sunday, Feb. 14, to serve a two-week stint on the USNS Comfort, the Baltimore-based naval hospital ship anchored off the Haitian coast. The Comfort is led by Christina Catlett, assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of the Go Team.

The Johns Hopkins Go Team is a unit of 185 health care providers formed by the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. You can support CEPAR and the GO Team here.

 

II. "You leave Haiti. But Haiti doesn't leave you."

Back in Baltimore, assistant nursing professor and Johns Hopkins Go Team member Beth Sloand can't get Port-au-Prince out of her mind. "Thousands ... have died; thousands ... are maimed; thousands ... are left orphans," she writes. "Practically the whole city is homeless. ... Port au Prince has become a graveyard." Still, she says, those who survived "are working each day to pick up the pieces of their lives and go on. They will need a lot of help for a long time to come."

 

III. "Leaving now is not the end of anything"

Before finishing their stints in Haiti, some members of the first Johns Hopkins Go Team unit traveled outside Port-au-Prince to areas where medical care is still badly needed. Some new mothers in Gressier, 45 minutes west of the capital, believe their milk has gone bad since the earthquake. Beth Sloand tried to persuade them to breastfeed, since it's impossible to get clean water and clean bottles for formula. In this environment, she says, "breastfeeding is truly life saving for babies." Nurse Alicia Hernandez and her colleagues saw more than 100 patients a day in a tent city for displaced persons in Petit Goave. The experience, she says, "will stay with me now. I feel a responsibility to … get them more help, and to get back and do more. This leaving now is not the end of anything."

 

IV. "Everyone is sleeping outside. Everyone."

An update on daily life for Haitians more than a month after the earthquake, from Assistant Professor Beth Sloand of the School of Nursing and the Johns Hopkins Go Team: Aftershocks continue. Everyone is afraid to move back indoors, even into homes that still stand. Trash is everywhere, in piles so large people climb over them to get where they are going. The trucks that could dispose of it are needed instead to move rubble.

 

V. Keeping despair at bay

While Beth Sloand saw groups of Haitians organized to start clearing wreckage and preparing for reconstruction, another Johns Hopkins Go Team member, emergency physician Gene Gincherman, worries that too many have little or nothing to do. That, he fears, may lead to despair. Haiti's spiritual leaders, he says, are doing their best to keep their flocks from going down that road.

 

VI. Emmanuelle

Jhpiego's work getting the maternity ward back in operation at Port-au-Prince's General Hospital is saving lives. In this case, two lives: a bleeding pregnant woman and her endangered unborn child. Both made it through emergency surgery, performed by two Johns Hopkins Jhpiego doctors and two other physicians. Lucito Jeannis, Jhpiego's country director in Haiti, reports that the baby girl was named Emmanuelle, for "God is with us." "Exactly," Jeannis says.

You can support Jhpiego's work in Haiti here.

 

VII. Eye doctor on site

Johns Hopkins ophthalmologist Daniel Finkelstein spent more than a week in northern Haiti, treating victims with eye trauma and providing whatever other medical care was needed. Finkelstein, who is also affiliated with Johns Hopkins' Berman Institute of Bioethics, was at Crudem Hôpital Sacré Coeur; it was left intact by the earthquake, so patients are brought there from other areas of Haiti where medical facilities were damaged or destroyed. Finkelstein's photos can be seen here.

 

VIII. The places where lost souls go

Two members of the Johns Hopkins Go Team in Port-au-Prince sent back reflections on a major problem: Where do you put discharged patients who have no place to go? Team leader Tom Kirsch says that some patients have taken matters into their own hands, colonizing a place on the hospital grounds nicknamed "The Forest." Team member Beth Sloand, in the midst of a longer blog post on working in an ER that's really a tent, points out that conditions are bad in Port-au-Prince's encampments for displaced people. "Parents [of child patients] seem to have a pleading look in their eyes, or maybe it is my imagination," she writes. "How do you discharge people who have no home?"

 

IX. The Go Team: "Everything's relative"

Haiti earthquake rescue efforts

Back at Johns Hopkins, these conditions would be considered primitive. But in post-earthquake Haiti, something resembling a system is a radical improvement. A hard floor to sleep on, a place to get an occasional shower and peanut butter from a military MRE are considered luxuries. An occasional slice of pizza and a cold Coke are "a strange comforting little piece of normality." And a simple chicken joke -- told by an interpreter who lost his brother and his house and has almost nothing to live on -- is, somehow, much more than just a joke.

These are glimpses into the daily life and exhausting, never-ending work of the Johns Hopkins Go Team at a tent version of the quake-damaged University Hospital of the State of Haiti in Port-au-Prince. They labor in stifling heat and nearly impossible conditions alongside doctors and nurses from other U.S. hospitals, military medics, NGO staffers and Haitian providers. There are other stories and photos here and more are coming.

Go Team
Tom Kirsch (left) and a Go Team member at the Haitian border.

 

X: May the rains be a bit late this year -- and let them be gentle

Three staff members from Jhpiego's Baltimore headquarters are back home after two weeks of very hard work restoring medical services for Haiti's pregnant women, mothers and newborns. They reflect on the continuing critical need for the basics: Clean water. Safe shelter. Creole-speaking nurses to help mothers with breastfeeding. They remember the midwifery students whose school has been demolished. They remember the 7,000 women expected to give birth in the next month. They remember orphaned, injured Edeline. Wonders team leader Rich Lamporte of Edeline's future: "What kind of Haiti might she face?" If you missed them, go back and check out the Jhpiego team's earlier reports here and here.

 

XI. Sende: A restavec's sad story
In the midst of so much misery, it's sometimes so hard to know what to do to make it even a little better. A case in point: One little girl encountered by Johns Hopkins pediatricians working in Port-au-Prince.

 

XII. Rum for disinfectant, cardboard for a splint
The four public health students were working on ways to help Haitian kids get the iodine they need. Then the quake struck. Suddenly, the priority wasn't research. It was bandaging, splinting, helping Haitian victims stave off deadly infections, using rum to disinfect wounds when nothing else was available. And, as public health experts will do, they made time to assess the big picture: figuring out death and injury rates in one of the hardest-hit neighborhood and documenting problems with food, water and orphaned children. Photos here.

And there's a video of the students' presentation to a Bloomberg School audience at the bottom of this page. (You may need to refresh your browser to see the video window correctly.)

 

XIII: A pediatrician's story: "Sadly, there were many orphans"
Read this incredible firsthand account, from Johns Hopkins pediatric resident Delphine Robotham, on the tragedy, triumph, deaths, miraculous recoveries and love she witnessed on a medical mission to Port-au-Prince, and on the heroism and fortitude of the Haitian people. To see an interview with Dr. Robotham and her colleagues, Jennifer Webb and Rana Hamdy, go here. Dr. Robotham, who spent part of her childhood in Baltimore, is a graduate of the University of Rochester and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

 

XIV: "Nou la toujou, Doc"

Jean Ford, a native of Haiti and a faculty member at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, spent two weeks in Port-au-Prince with the University of Miami's Project Medishare. He told the AMA's American Medical News that there were times he had to step away from his work. "I didn't want to cry in front of my patients," Ford said. "It was just overwhelming. You've never seen anything like that." While still in Haiti, Ford sent a message back to Baltimore saying he felt that "the psychological trauma may be more profound" for Haitians than their physical injuries. One told him, "I am already dead." But after a vicious aftershock, another told him, in Creole, "We're still here, Doc." Ford is associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and director of the Johns Hopkins Public Health Grant and Cancer Disparities Program at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

 

XV: A Johns Hopkins doc helps his neighbors
Johns Hopkins' full-time staff members in Haiti are dealing not only with the medical needs of the population but also with earthquake damage to their own homes and major disruption to their lives. Lucito Jeannis, lead physician in Haiti for the Johns Hopkins-based maternal and child health organization Jhpiego, has opened his property to neighbors in need. At last count, 17 people were sharing water and food in a makeshift compound outside the Jeannis house. "We are alive," he said, "and thankful for it." Read more here and see Jeannis and some of his neighbors at the very end of this ABC News story.

 

Crutches for Haiti
crutches
2,500 pairs of crutches were donated.

They're on their way! On Tuesday, Feb. 2, volunteers loaded the last of 2,500 pairs of donated crutches onto a truck provided by FedEx. The campaign started when a group of Johns Hopkins pediatricians returned from an emergency medical mission to Port-au-Prince and said there were virtually no crutches available there for Haitians with crushed bones or amputated limbs. You responded magnificently, with well over 10 times the number of crutches the doctors had expected to collect. There were so many that - as you can see from the picture - the doctor's garage where they were stored couldn't hold them all. FedEx taken the donated crutches, plus some canes and walkers, to be shrink-wrapped onto pallets, trucked to Miami and flown from there to Port-au-Prince. Thank you for your generosity. The Johns Hopkins Children's Center says it can accept no more crutches.

Helping Haiti's nurses

The earthquake destroyed one of Haiti's three nursing schools, killing two faculty members and a reported 150 second-year students. Nurses are desperately needed on the ground, and many of the nurses and midwives who are in Port-au-Prince or elsewhere in Haiti need new skills to cope with the new challenges they are facing since Jan. 12. The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is helping, using its network of contacts worldwide to collect nursing education materials, translate them into French and Creole and make them available electronically. Read about the project here.

"Saturday for Haiti"

Johns Hopkins students raised more than $2,300 by singing, dancing, playing, climbing and even eating for earthquake relief during "Saturday for Haiti" on Feb. 20 at the Homewood campus. From a pancake breakfast to a class in Haitian dance, from yoga, a basketball tournament and a climbing wall to dance and musical performances, hundreds of students took part in what organizers say is just the first installment in an ongoing commitment to the people of Haiti. "The feedback we have gotten from students and student groups has been committed and exciting," said Mike Rogers, a junior and a spokesman for the JHU Haiti Aid Coalition, "and we cannot wait to plan more events for the future." Proceeds from "Saturday for Haiti" will support Partners in Health, a nonprofit that has worked in Haiti for 20 years, and the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Hearts - and maybe some yummy tarts - for Haiti

The School of Nursing aims to raise $10,000 for earthquake relief; three upcoming events will bring the goal closer. The school is sponsoring bake sales from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, and Monday, March 1. School of Nursing portfolios are on sale Wednesday, March 3, also from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On all three dates, you can also buy cutout hearts to post on the school's Haiti board and on the windows. Proceeds benefit the Haitian Health Foundation and the Haiti Nursing Foundation. Contact Assistant Professor Beth Sloand or student Sheyanga Beecher.

Well done, SAIS students!

The SAIS Student Government Association in Washington raised more than $1,000 at its Jan. 22 happy hour for Haiti earthquake response efforts at Jhpiego. That's teamwork... one part of Johns Hopkins supporting another! If you want to contribute to Jhpiego's work in Haiti, go here.

Students at the SAIS Bologna Center in Italy have also been active. Through online donations, a Loose Change Haiti Campaign, and a Haiti "Charitivo" Event (charity plus aperitivo), the center's students, faculty and staff have raised more than 2700 euros for various relief organizationa.

Haiti: History and context

Dan Erikson, a professorial lecturer in Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, has published an op-ed in the Des Moines Register reviewing the partisan history of U.S. foreign policy toward Haiti. He also wrotea piece for CNN.com on Haiti's recent history and the earthquake's impact on long-term efforts to help the beleaguered Caribbean nation. Erikson appeared on a "Haiti Primer" edition of WAMU-FM's Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Other Johns Hopkins efforts in Haiti

Michael Millin, assistant professor of emergency medicine, is deployed with a New Jersey Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The team reportedly has been sent to an offshore U.S. Coast Guard vessel to care for trauma victims brought there by helicopter.

Lee Daugherty, an instructor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and an MPH graduate of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been deployed with World Relief, an international non-profit based in Baltimore. She is working at a hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Johns Hopkins people in Haiti

The university has had no reports that any of its faculty, staff and students have come to harm in Haiti. All university personnel known to be in the country at the time of the earthquake are accounted for and safe. Four master's degree students in the Bloomberg School of Public Health were working in the villages of Anse Rouge and Pont Sonde, both distant from Port-au-Prince, and were unharmed by the earthquake. They went to Port-au-Prince and volunteered at a school for 200 children, worked at a makeshift hospital and conducted a survey to try to determine death and injury rates in one of the hardest-hit sections of the city. They have now been evacuated from Haiti and have returned to the United States.

Five locally hired staff members of the Center for Communications Programs in the School of Public Health were also safe, as were six employees of Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins affiliate that helps create infrastructure for child and maternal health in developing nations.

There are members of the Johns Hopkins community, however, who have lost family and friends in Haiti. The thoughts of all of us at Johns Hopkins are with them.

--Updated Feb. 19, 2010


Photo: The photo at the top of the page shows Bloomberg School of Health MPH student Laalitha Surapaneni, a physician, treating injured children in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake. Photo by Demeter Russafov (AMURT)