After a roughly four hour drive from Santo Domingo to Barahona, we pulled up to the cheerful iron gates of the Children of the Nations International compound. Inside it looks like a low end hotel complex with several two story buildings, some drained water fountains, a questionable swimming pool, concrete paths leading the way through the dust. Large piles of water bottle flats are everywhere.
And emerging from buildings are trim, thin worn and sweaty doctors and nurses--but you can't tell who is who since most wear scrubs-- who have just returned after their long days to clean up for dinner. I am quickly brought up to speed on the fact that almost all of these people have been working 14 hour days for a week and are leaving within the next 48 hours.
We make rounds twice at the clinic about a mile away that was a COTN sponsored community clinic but has been re-fitted as a small hospital, with three tiny operating rooms, a ward with 8 recovering amputees and another with 4 including two brothers. All but one of the kids are up, some with both legs casted, some still in diapers, and the older boys wheeling around with their rusty chairs or oversized crutches.
Up at four with the roosters, after a nightmare of dying in a plane crash, there was no time towaste before getting to the clinic to relieve the two night nurses.
I felt like an intern on the first day in the pediatric ICU. It's been a long time since
Striking Senses today:
Touch: the rough skin of the bare, thickened, scarred feet of all but the youngest children
Smell: the distinct scent of a urine soaked cast (soon to be changed under anesthesia in the operating room).
Taste: the wonderful comfort of chocolate after a 14 hour day.
Sound: the sound of the preacher praying with the parents of the patients early this morning. Asking God to protect Haiti, and to give wisdom to the doctors healing their children.
Vision:where to begin: with the over-stocked shelves ajumble with unusable, sophisticated supplies?; with the faces of maimed children smiling and calling out to play?; with the flies hovering over the operating table in the OR?
Actually, hands down, the most memorable vision of the day was a reunion like no other. When the team went to Jimani (the Dominican town just over the Haitian border), they picked up twelve children, including Migalena who is 12 and was accompanied by her gorgeous 18 year old sister. Although Her sister escaped unscathed herself, she had to pull Migalena from the rubble and in the process her arm was injured enough to require amputation and an enormous and deep gouge in her thigh. Their mother was in the DR when the earthquake struck and they had been separated since. Today, the girls' mother walked into the clinic and cries of "Mammy, Mammy" reverberated around the clinic. The reunion was of course bittersweet as mom processed the sight of her daugher without her left arm and coping with so much pain, but by days' end, she was braiding her daughters' hair and eating chocolate with them
I have nothing but respect for the surgeons and anesthetists who have treated these survivors for the past week. They are careful, gentle, detail-oriented and wonderful communicators. They leave tomorrow. This week's challenge will be to transition to a new team and to plan for the recovery of these children.