Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Faina's story

Details from Dr. Richard Wolfe, our Chief of Emergency Services, about the young lady mentioned below.

Shortly after we came to Jimani we found Faina. She was a 7 week old baby girl survivor. The earthquake had collapsed a house on her family and she was found under her mother who had protected her from the falling debris. The baby had a crushed leg and a wound on her buttock. Her mother did not make it. So it was up to a surviving aunt to find help.

Somehow the aunt managed to get on a bus with the baby. It was filled with injured patients headed to the Dominican border. It’s a 40 mile trip on a road clogged with starving traumatized refugees. Entry into the Dominican Republic is limited to injured victims and a single family member. So unlike many, the pair was allowed entry into a place where security, food and shelter were available. When she arrived at Buen Samraritano, our field hospital, Burt was on duty. He is a pediatrician from Central Massachusetts who was always calm with a soft reassuring smile despite the horror stories and chaos. He had arrived a few days before when an old medical school classmate had asked him to come and help with the kids. He immediately saw that the baby was in critical condition.

Besides the devastating wounds, Faina was dehydrated and hyponatremic. Burt had to rely on his clinical skills as the i-stat machine and x-ray hadn’t yet arrived. He went to work, did his best, and saved her life. When we met her, a day later, she was feeding vigorously, making good eye contact, and charming every provider in the camp. However, the wound was contaminated and very close to the gluteal artery. We all knew it was only a matter of time before it became infected leading to sepsis and death. With the resources we had in camp, the debridement she needed was extremely dangerous because of a high risk of injuring the artery and causing an exsanguinating hemorrhage.

We had over 30 patients who needed a level of care the exceeded the resources of our field hospital. The USS Comfort was saturated and there was no easy way to get her transferred to the hospitals in the United States. We knew that the Order of Malta had developed Sacre Coeur hospital in the north of Haiti, staffing it with world class experts and equipment. Importantly for Faina, they had pediatric intensivists and plastic surgeons who could provide the care that was needed. However this meant flying from the Dominican Republic to Haiti and that apparently required special authorization. We could not simply take an ambulance as it was a 10 hour drive over two mountain ranges through a devastated country.

The US military and Dominicans were both willing to help, but we could not get the authorization to fly because of red tape somewhere within the UN. Countless calls to everyone we knew were made to find help, but for days the authorization kept being denied. Her aunt allowed us to shoot this picture to better communicate why transport was so badly needed. Finally, someone got through to somebody and yesterday, on Sunday morning, a fleet of US military helicopters descended on the camp and carried off 36 of the sickest patients. The last I heard, Faina was safely away, still charming everyone and still resistant to infection.

5 comments:

Mark Chalek said...

I met with Sean Kelly this AM. His descriptions of the logistical challenges of creating effective hospitals out of abandoned buildings in the Dominican, or, even more amazingly, in open fields in Haiti, stagger the mind. Even more amazingly, Sean tells me he can't wait to go back! It's a privilege to work with colleagues whose dedication to healing knows no bounds.

Paul Levy said...

Transferred from Facebook:

Cherie: WOW!

Vicki: Godspeed to all those who are helping in Haiti and to those who so desperately need the help.

Paul Levy said...

From Facebook:

Anne-Marie: And thanks to Dr. Richard and the many, many others who are doing the work there-- wish we could all pitch in but we thank those who are able -- and willing -- to be there.

Courtney said...

Randomly came upon this post....but thought you might be interested in an update. I am a pediatrician and was at Sacre Coeur for 2 weeks in mid March. I had the pleasure of caring for Faina, among many other kids who were victims of the earthquake--I am so happy to hear the story of how she got to us and to hear about the people that saved her life. Thank you, she is an amazing child, and, as you said, such a charmer! Over the two weeks I was there, I watched her gaping wound almost completely close in front of my eyes, and she was thriving in her aunt's care. She has decreased use of that leg, but we got PT to start working with her and they made the cutest little AFO to help her foot drop! We were hopeful that she'll have some use of the leg, though limited.
Again, I'm so glad to have come across this blog and to know more of her background story. Know that she is thriving (thanks to Dr. Samraritano) and is lucky to have a wonderful, sweet, grateful, and loving aunt to take care of her.

Paul Levy said...

Thanks, Courtney!