A friend of a friend…

The provenance of this story: Just got this email from my brother. He got it from a good friend Marc. Marc went to college with Pieter who wrote the emails below from the first-hand experience of working in Haiti last week.

My post last week, “Week 2 was a Draw,” was inadvertently deleted, but in it I explained that Chad and our family had donated some money to Doctors Without Borders. Pieter has more suggestions below. (I’ve deleted all email addresses, but retained the email format, so you can see the history.) I’ve checked the links (legit), but changed nothing else in the emails.


Date: January 20, 2010 9:11:06 PM CST
Subject: FW: Haiti Update

Dear Family and Friends,

Many of you have asked about my trip to Haiti this past week Jan 17-19.  I guess the email i sent from Haiti that first night made it through the email circulation like a mad computer virus (see below).

Through a small miracle performed by my colleague Dr. Carlos Lavernia, I boarded a flight, along with anesthesiologists and surgeons from all over the US flight, to Haiti in a private jet paid for by an owner who said he would indefinitely continue to fund urgent med-evacs and shuttle physicians and supplies as long as was needed.

The “hospital tents” on the UN barracks at the airport were sponsored by Medishare (Dr. Barth Green) and the University of Miami.  I thank them for giving me the opportunity.  There was no running water, sanitation, operating room, sterile equipment etc.  Alonzo Mourning was there mopping floors, placing splints, and later contributed $1 million towards the development of a new hospital tent.

The scene was gruesome.  The smell of decay, the cries of pain, and the look of fear on little kids’ and parents’ faces.  There were open tibia fractures in children and adults.  There were babies with spinal cord paralysis and flail chests.

I helped devise the first OR consisting of 2 picnic tables.  The team and I performed over 14 surgically necessary amputations for gangrenous limbs in those first 24 hours along with countless “minor” bedside procedures like casts, reductions.  Amputations are not a feel-good operation.  Had to take lots of breaks to clear the mind.  All procedures were done with the best anesthesia team one could ever ask for – with interscalene blocks for upper extremity surgery and fem/sciatic blocks for lower extremities.  We had turnover times that would make surgical centers jealous!  There were no anesthesia machines, oxygen, or other fancy things like tourniquets or power saws and sterilization solution.

Civil war medicine comes to mind.

But, considering how badly injured some of these patients are, the mortality rate at the UM facility was low (somewhere around 2%). In total, some 300+ patients have been treated at the UM field hospital.

I said I wouldn’t in my first email, but I’ve attached a pic of one of my patients.  He’s doing well.

After 48 hours, I had to leave.  I was met with an outpouring of emotions when I returned from people asking how they could help.

Consider donating.  God knows the Haitians need it.
Medishare charity who helped fund my way there.

Also consider Operation Walk Haiti (Larry Dohr’s, Lavernia, Hommen) whose mission is to help those afflicted with orthopedic ailments like fractures, amputations, and spinal cord injuries.  The goal is to provide these infants, children and adults with continued orthopedic surgical care, physical therapy, crutches, braces, and limb prosthetics now and long after Haiti has been rebuilt.

Pieter Hommen


Subject: Haiti update
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 01:09:30 -0500

i’m safe on a UN compound at airport port-au-prince.  Lots of security.

very rudimentary “hospitals” where the only thing you can do is wash a wound or change a dressing – however i changed that today with some of the first surgical procedures on cots in the dark.

Very very sad here

crush injuries are very difficult to treat

most have orthopedic problems (open fractures, dislocations, sepsis, gangrene)

lots of little kids

Trying to do my part but the devestation will leave an entire generation in shambles, with amputees, not fixed fractures, spinal cord injuries etc)

trying to keep a positive attitude and a smile for my patients

haitians are the nicest people living in hell on earth

keep in your prayers and be thankful for what we have

won’t and can’t send pictures

too sad


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