Haiti's medical needs still enormous

Haiti's medical needs still enormous

January 30th, 2010 by Perla Trevizo in News

Staff photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Staff photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Thousands of Haitians who still need critical medical care and a limited number of physicians to help them has left a local doctor with mixed feelings about returning home.

"On previous trips (to Haiti), I was always ready to come back after a few days because it's so exhausting physically and emotionally," said Dr. Chris Moore, an emergency room physician who returned Thursday morning from a 10-day medical mission trip to Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

"But this time, really, I wasn't sure I was quite ready just because there's so much to be done," he said Friday after a news conference. "You have to convince yourself there are others to help and that you've got to take care of yourself, too."

Dr. Moore had traveled to Haiti with Erlanger nurse Jennifer Ohle and anesthesiologist Dr. Chris Young.

The day before the return of their team -- dubbed "America One" -- another group of three doctors and three nurses left Wednesday morning for Haiti in what is tentatively a seven-day medical mission trip.

Jennifer Homa, spokeswoman for Erlanger Health System, said there are no plans at this point to send other groups.

While the first team treated orthopedic injuries, traumatic amputations, cleaning up infections as well as normal surgeries such as C-sections and appendicitis, Dr. Young said the second team will focus more on pediatrics and post-surgery care -- one of their primary concerns.

"Unfortunately, we did many amputations," Dr. Young said. "There's going to be a need for help with prosthesis, wound care. It's going to be very difficult for them to survive (under those conditions)," he said during Friday's news conference.

Officials estimate the Jan. 12 earthquake killed as many as 200,000 people and injured another 200,000, according to The Associated Press.

But injured people aren't the only source of danger for Haiti, Dr. Young said.

"They are going to have to get ready to face an outbreak of disease with very little sanitation like clean water," he said. "They can expect to see a rise of cases of cholera, typhoid, which we had already started to see."

But help continues to arrive.

A group of three area medical professionals left Friday for Haiti to help through Project Haiti Heart, Inc.

Dr. Rodovaldo Rodriguez of the North Georgia Surgery and Comprehensive Breast Center in Dalton, Ga.; Dr. Pablo Perez, president of St. Joseph's Clinic in Dalton; and Tracy Hooper, a nurse practitioner with The Health Depot in Chatsworth, went with the project.

They are expected to return in about a week, according to Miriam Lemon, office manager at St. Joseph's Clinic; and Teresa Noland, office manager at The Health Depot.

Project Haiti Heart is a nonprofit based in Atlanta that provides medical, humanitarian and spiritual aid to the people of Haiti, according to the group's Web site.

Although Mrs. Ohle and Drs. Young and Moore said they had a rough understanding of what to expect in Haiti, the quantity and degree of the injuries was something they weren't ready for.

"There was a young father cradling an infant in his arms," Dr. Moore said. "He asked me for help, but the baby was already dead and he didn't know. We saw a lot more than what we would have liked to see."

Though the returnees no longer will be treating earthquake victims, they said they will continue to work with the local Haiti organizations they were working with before the disaster, including the Children's Nutrition Program and the American Haitian Foundation.

Staff writer Kelly Jackson contributed to this story.

DR. ROGER JURICH RETURNS TO HAITI

* Dr. Jurich, a Winchester, Tenn., physician and hospitalist at Southern Tennessee Medical Center, was in Haiti during a medical mission with First United Methodist Church when the Jan. 12 earthquake struck. While there, he cared for some of the earliest victims of the quake in Port-au-Prince.

* Dr. Jurich, also member of the Winchester Rotary Club, will return to Haiti on Monday with a team of doctors and nurses to continue helping with the relief efforts.

"When you have a patient you try to find out as much as you can about the history of the injury, but in this case you really didn't want to know the whole story because the devastating injuries were usually accompanied by further sadness." -- Dr. Chris Moore