UT doctor treating Haitian quake victims

UT doctor treating Haitian quake victims

January 19th, 2010 by Allison Kwesell in News

By Allison Kwesell, akwesell@timesfreepress.com

JIMANI, Dominican Republic -- A teary-eyed woman, frozen with pain, sat quietly in a room. All around her lay people with screws poking out of their legs, children with cardboard splints on broken arms and legs, men with mangled limbs and swollen faces.

Some are asleep, others rock back and forth in agony.

IV fluid bags hang from light bulbs, fire extinguishers and edges of windows. Medical charts are a sheet of white paper either taped above patients' mattresses on the floor or on their chests.

Wails and crying roll out of surgical rooms and faint Haitian hymns can be heard in one hallway.

"My initial reaction was horror, just absolute horror," says Dr. Ed Jeffries, an orthopedic surgeon from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's medical center, who is working in the Dominican Republic with the International Medical Alliance.

Ambulances arrive at Hospital Gran Samaritano, one after the other in a steady stream, along with patients lying in the beds of pick-up trucks.

Many victims who suffered injuries from the Haitian earthquake on Jan. 12 have been brought to hospitals in the border town of Jimani, located about 25 miles from Port-au-Prince.

With security warnings buzzing all around Haiti, doctors feel safer treating patients on the Dominican Republic side of the island of Hispaniola.

Safety may not be an issue, but the sheer volume of injured is.

The hospital in Jimani is clean, yet dusty and messy in some rooms that are overpacked with patients. Instruments are properly disinfected and doctors from Puerto Rico, the United States and elsewhere come and go quickly through the rooms.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Dr. Lizmary Nazario, from Puerto Rico, gives Juvince Ternise formula at Hospital Gran Samaritano in Jimani, Dominican Republic. Many victims suffered crush injuries from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12 in Haiti and have been brought to Hospitals in Jimani to be treated.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Dr. Lizmary Nazario, from...

Dr. Jeffries said working here is different from working in the United States where doctors would try to "get people into the E.R. for surgery very quickly."

If crushed tissue remains untreated for more than eight hours, the tissue dies and limbs may have to be amputated, he said.

Yet, five days after the earthquake, people are still being rescued from the rubble and taken to hospitals across the border.

The most common injuries suffered in the earthquake are open fractures, head injuries and infected wounds that need amputation, according to Doctors Without Borders, a medical humanitarian organization based in Switzerland.