Friday, April 30, 2010

Lost Limbs and New-Found Hope

Working closely with the Haitian Ministry of Health, Project Medishare is planning to move out of its tent-based village at the Port-au-Prince airport to a permanent, fixed facility. In addition, Project Medishare, focusing now on long-term prosthetic care, is planning to build a Prosthetic and Orthotics Center. Their goal is to fit 1,800 amputees with new limbs. It is estimated now that anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 Haitians were left without a limb as a result of the January earthquake, numbers which are roughly comparable to the number of amputee U.S. veterans returning from Vietnam. For ever $300 donation, Project Medishare is able to ensure another amputee will walk again. Typically, 6 months of physical therapy is require before getting fitted. Adults require a replacement every 3-5 years, while children need one every 6-12 months.

In addition to issues such as cost, distribution, and durability, cultural sensitivity is a chief concern. Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek recall looks of apprehension and dread in the eyes of patients and family members when faced with the reality of a potential amputation. "Either we let these people who lost their limbs face a life of begging or worse, or we say this is our chance to make this a vibrant disabilities rights movement in Haiti," remarked Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health. Three Haitian-Americans have founded an advocacy group for Haitian amputees called S.A.V.E. 509 (Support and Action for the Victims of the Earthquake). Their mission is to "empower those suffering from limb loss in Haiti by providing assistance, relief, emotional, physical and psychological healing. The organization agency for the disabled while enabling amputees in Haiti to have access to prosthetics, crutches, wheelchairs and rehabilitation services so that one day they can regain their mobility thereby becoming independent, walk again and return to their daily routine." MSNBC has a project called Building a Life Worth Living, which will follow the work of groups delivering prosthetic limbs and "explore the experiences of those who've lost limbs and the struggle they say is not just to survive, but to build a life worth living."

Advantages of Monetary Donations

(re-posted from the website of USAID, the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster)

Monetary donations are the most effective form of assistance because they allow humanitarian organizations to purchase (often within the affected region itself) the exact type and quantity of items needed by those affected by the crisis. Monetary donations therefore have several logistical advantages over commodity contributions:
  • Monetary donations are more cost-effective than commodity contributions, because the cost of international shipping usually exceeds the cost of procuring the commodities within the region.
  • Monetary donations, unlike commodity contributions, do not involve international transportation and handling, which can be very complex and time consuming.
  • Humanitarian organizations can use monetary donations to specifically procure items on a priority-needs basis in the exact quantity and quality require - while commodity contributions often involve use of scare resources (transportation, staff time, warehouse space, etc.) for non-crucial or inappropriate commodities.
  • Commodities procured by humanitarian organizations using monetary donations can be sorted, labeled (in the appropriate language), and packaged in exactly the manner required for storage and distribution and will reach the affected region much quicker than commodity contributions would.
In addition to these logistical advantages, monetary donations to humanitarian organizations also help to ensure that relief efforts contribute to the long-term sustainability and self-reliance of the affected region. This is because commodities that have been procured by humanitarian organizations using monetary donations:
  • are more likely to be culturally and environmentally appropriate, and consistent with traditional practices and consumption patterns
  • support the economy of the affected region when procured locally, thereby contributing to the eventual goal of self-reliance and economic growth

Thinking Outside the Tent

C. Setchell, a USAID/OFDA Shelter, Settlements, and Hazard Mitigation Advisor, wrote an article in November 2008 on why tents are not suitable shelters in a post-disaster environment.

He writes, "tents are useful when there are absolutely no other shelter options, but this is hardly ever the case, as disasters and conflicts rarely generate complete and total destruction of permanent structures." In the most recent USAID fact sheet on the Haiti earthquake, 32,000 structures have been inspected in habitability assessments. 44 percent deemed safe for habitation, 32 percent could be made safe with repairs, and 24 percent are unsafe and require demolition. Relief agencies have reached approximately 100 percent of the target population requiring emergency shelter assistance. Typically, this is in the form of two pieces of plastic sheeting per household, which is a more flexible solution than tents and more adaptable to a family's specific needs. Setchell also notes that the "total cost of tent provision is often greater than [...] salvage-based options," and that because of the small size of tents, it is "understandable, then, why people get sick, why protection issues emerge, or why psycho-social issues emerge when they have to live in undersized tents for more than a short period of time."

With more than 2.1 million people displaced and 1,300 spontaneous settlements throughout Haiti, the goal now is to repair damaged structures and move displaced people back into more permanent structures. This is especially vital as the rainy season commences in May and hurricane season arrives in June.

St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church

On February 14, Dr. Fitzgerald spoke at a luncheon program at the St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Cleveland Heights. The local chapter of the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, a philanthropic organization at the heart of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, raised $500 for Project Medishare. Special thanks to Ted and Irene Theodore for their support.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Project Medishare Leads the Fight Against Malnutrition

Project Medishare is working on equipping and training staff at the Akamil Production Facility and Nutrition Complex in the Thomonde community of Haiti's Central Plateau, 41 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince. Akamil is a nutritional supplement made from locally-grown beans, rice, wheat and corn, milled together into a digestible powder. This high protein cereal blend, which is fortified with vitamins and micronutrients and then cooked with clean water, has been made in Haiti for over 40 years. Akamil is recommended by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

For children under the age of 5 in the Central Plateau, chronic malnutrition is 33 percent and the mortality rate is 187 per 1000. Due to the recent migration patterns out of Port-au-Prince, the number of people Project Medishare cares for in Thomonde has increased by 29 percent. The U.N. World Food Program estimates that 49 percent of Haiti's population is undernourished. This new facility will not only vastly improve the nutritional well-being of high-risk populations (children, pregnant women, and HIV and TB patients), but will also provide jobs, benefit small farmers, and diversify the agricultural base.

To read more about this project, please click here and here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lake Erie College Continues their Support

The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Lake Erie College in Painesville, OH raised $166 for Project Medishare from a 50/50 raffle at a recent basketball game. Thank you to Stephanie Morgan, everyone in the SAAC, and the entire LEC community for their continued support. They have raised over $1700 to date!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Warrensville Heights High School

Earlier in March, I had an opportunity to speak to the entire freshman class of Warrensville Heights High School in Cleveland about the disaster in Haiti. I was very impressed with these students, and recently found out that they raised $400 for Project Medishare. Their gift will go a long way toward the rehabilitation process for the countless victims of the January 12 earthquake, including young people their own age, many of whom lost their limbs, their families, and their homes, but not their will and determination. I would like to thank these students for their thoughtful and selfless gift. They should be very proud.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

USAID Fact Sheet #47

USAID published their most recent Haiti earthquake fact sheet on March 26, 2010.

Key Developments
* USAID has contributed 116,000 containers of water to benefit approximately 291,500 earthquake-affected individuals.
* USAID has contributed 18,230 rolls of plastic sheeting to provide shelter materials to approximately 911,500 earthquake-affected individuals. The rate of shelter material distribution has exceeded rates of distribution in previous emergencies, including the 2006 and 2009 Indonesia earthquakes.
* 12,000 houses have been assessed in Port-au-Prince for structural damage. 40% of those are suitable for habitation.
* 37,000 residents of five prioritized spontaneous settlements reside in areas vulnerable to flooding.

To read the full report, please click here.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 595,407 residents of Port-au-Prince have migrated to outlying regions. This number only includes individuals utilizing Government of Haiti-provided transportation and does not include people leaving Port-au-Prince utilizing private means of transport. There are no confirmed accounts of how many have moved into the Dominican Republic.

To see maps of population movement and U.S. Government humanitarian assistance, please click here.

Letter from Haitian Community Hospital

I came across this letter of thanks from the Haitian Community Hospital where Team Cleveland volunteered. At their peak, the hospital was treating nearly 700 patients a day, up from their average 140 patients a day before the earthquake. The Haiti Press Network announced that USAID plans to donate $400,000 worth of equipment for a new, permanent operating room for the hospital. To read the article (only available in French), please click here.


Mesi Anpil!
Merci Beaucoup!
Thank you, Very Much!

Because of the outpouring of support we received from individuals like you, L'Hôpital de la Communauté Haïtienne was able to:

* provide care for approximately 5,000 victims of the earthquake, free of charge
* feed patients, hospital staff, and volunteers, as well as their families, when markets and grocery stores were not opened
* distribute tarps and tents to those who had lost their homes, including members of the hospital staff
* distribute toiletries and clothing to patients and hospital staff, as well as their families
* host medical volunteers from the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti, Aruba, Jamaica, Sweden, Dominican Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Canada, Korea, Australia, Portugal, Hungary, Bangladesh, and Japan


With your support, we have suspended all fees. At present, the hospital cares for approximately 200 patients a day. Many of these patients were victims of the earthquake who are receiving follow-up care, undergoing revision surgeries, and are being fitted with prostheses.


We extend sincere gratitude to each and every donor and volunteer. The hospital would not have withstood this catastrophe without your contribution.


Sincerely,
Foundation Haïtienne de la Santé et de l'Education /
Haitian Health and Education Foundation Board of Directors
Georges Celcis, President
Dr. Edith Hudicourt, Vice President
Ysabelle Roy, General Secretary
Maurice Acra, Treasurer
Georges Hudicourt
Elly Maudy Chauvet
Dr. Nancy Xantus
Willaim Phipps


Hôpital de la Communauté Haïtienne / Haitian Community Hospital Staff
Jean Adrien, General Director
Dr. Marie Claude Francois, Medical Director

Lake Health Honors Team Cleveland

On Monday, March 29, Lake Health honored Team Cleveland for their work in Haiti. Lake Health sent $13,000 worth of drugs and medical supplies, $4,000 worth of surgical supplies, $10,000 in surgical instruments and 90 cases of water to Haiti with Team Cleveland. Lake Health nurses collected $800 and bought wound care, burn, and antibiotic creams and supplies. The Lake Health Foundation collected over $14,000 from team members. Thank you to Lake Health for supporting and recognizing their relief efforts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

American Red Cross Honors Team Cleveland

The American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland has named Team Cleveland a recipient of the 2010 Hero Award in recognition of their service in Haiti.

On Thursday, May 13th, the American Red Cross will pay tribute to unsung, ordinary citizens who have performed acts of kindness and humanitarianism. These values mirror those that motivate and inspire the work of the Red Cross.

Congratulations to Dr. Paul Vanek, Dr. Jack Fitzgerald, Theresa Jackson RN, and Jean Kurdas RN. We recognize and appreciate your work, as it reminds us to act with selflessness, compassion and courage in all things.

Team Cleveland Featured in COSE Update Magazine

Click here to read an article on Team Cleveland in the most recent COSE Update Magazine. This piece is a great general overview of their time in Haiti and includes some stories not previously covered by our blog, so be sure to check it out!

COSE (Council of Smaller Enterprises) is the region's largest small business support organization and provides cost-effective group purchasing programs, advocacy on legislative and regulatory issues, and networking and educational resources to help Northeast Ohio's small businesses grow.

Returning Pediatricians to Speak at Union Club

Tonight, March 24, at 6:00pm, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs is holding an event at the Union Club. Speaking at the event are pediatricians Dr. Ximena Valdes and Dr. Marissa Herran, who both spent time in Haiti traveling to various clinics treating injured children. Joining them will be Marixa Lasso, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Latin American History at Case Western Reserve University.

Price: $25 Members/$35 Non-Members, $10 Students

Click here to reserve your ticket online, or call 216-255-9003, or e-mail them at reservations@ccwa.org

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs is a non-profit organizations whose mission is to "engage the community of Northeast Ohio to achieve greater understanding of international relations and global issues and their impact upon our region."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lake Erie College - Hoops for Haiti

I would like to thank the Lake Erie College community once again for their incredible support for Project Medishare. On March 16th, several student groups organized a Hoops for Haiti event and raised about $600. I want to thank Amber Adache and all the volunteers for helping to make it a great success. This is now the second fundraiser held at Lake Erie College. The students have raised roughly $1600 for Project Medishare.

To read more about this event in the News Herald, please click here

.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward C. Wilson

You could say that Lieut. Col. Wilson was Team Cleveland's "lifeline." He was responsible for safely taking them from the airport to the Haitian Community Hospital, about a 30 minute ride. He was the only soldier at the airport who offered any assistance. He continued to check up on the team periodically to make sure they were OK. Dr. Vanek wants to "acknowledge his kindness in getting us safely to HCH. He called us 'the Cavalry' and said he served in a support role. I thanked him on behalf of our team and told him of how we bless his name and his efforts when we talk of our efforts in Haiti."

Lieut. Col. Wilson writes,

This is just a quick note to follow up on your visit to Haiti and the efforts of your team. I can't tell you how amazed I was with the courage, dedication, selflessness and professionalism you and your staff exhibited in your work to provide critical medical care after the earthquake.


It was truly a pleasure to assist you and your team where we could. I don't know if you remember us, but we gave you and your team and the 700-800 lbs of equipment you had rides to the Community Hospital and coordinated for what security we could provide for you. The efforts of your team are an experience that I continue to hold up as nothing short of heroic and [...] I hope to have the opportunity to thank you and your team in person.

In another note, he writes,

We started a saying based on several experiences we faced during and after the earthquake: "we have to try." You are all testament to what is possible if you just put forth your best effort when faced with adversity, anything becomes possible.

Respectfully,
Leiutenant Colonel Edward C. Wilson
MINUSTAH Intelligence Officer (U2)

Here in Cleveland, we tip our hat to Lieut. Col. Wilson for his selfless work and for helping to ensure the safety of our team.

News from the Haitian Community Hospital

I just came across a nice note from a woman who has been volunteering at the Haitian Community Hospital nearly ever day for the past two months. She writes,

Everyday about 200 patients come to the hospital for care: obgyn patients, pediatrics patients, orthopedic patients. Instead of being covered with dirt with open wounds the way people were [in the first week], in March the patients are clean and well-dressed. Babies wear colorful barrettes and cute little shoes. Dr. Valerie Rice, a volunteer OBGYN from Tennessee asked, how could these people living in tent cities be so clean? I think they come here in their best clothing because a hospital is an important place. It's a gesture of respect for you doctors, for the service you are offering. It may be free of charge but it is very valuable. So, let us keep concentrating on the mission, a mission that is a bit changed two months later but no less important: saving lives. The method may be different, the urgency is less predominant but the threats to life continue to be insidious.

To read the note in its entirety, please click here.

Prosthetic Limbs, New Ailments

Volunteers with Project Medishare are beginning to report seeing post-earthquake ailments like malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, malnutrition, and a myriad of infectious diseases. According to Project Medishare nurse liaison Maguey Rochelin, children are becoming more at-risk to life-threatening diseases like malaria with so many families living outside in make-shift shelters, in close proximity to so many others, during the tropical rain season, and without adequate sanitary conditions.

Prior to the earthquake, the rate of TB was 10 times greater than in the rest of Latin America. Haiti saw 30,000 cases of malaria each year. The HIV rate is said to be between 2.5-5%. Those who had been treated for HIV and TB before the earthquake suddenly found themselves without the care they desperately needed. Organizations like Project Medishare are rebuilding and restaffing clinics and hospitals in the hopes of restoring and improving that level of care for those patients.

In just the past week, patients at the Haitian Community Hospital where Team Cleveland operated as well as patients at the Project Medishare Hospital are now being fitted for prosthetic limbs. Amputee patients at both facilities are under the care of volunteer orthopedic surgeons along with physical therapists. 24-year-old Manoushka Blanc, who lost her two sisters in the earthquake, also lost her right leg, recalls waking up from surgery. "It was like I was dreaming, I was still in shock from the earthquake. I didn't realize I had lost my leg - it was only a few days after that I realized it wasn't there. I accepted it because I know the doctors saved my life." For Manoushka, hope came in the form of a prosthetic limb. "When they told me about this new leg I stopped crying because I see hope for my future. I feel much better now knowing that I might be able to live a more normal life." At the Haitian Community Hospital, more than a dozen patients have already been fitted with prosthetic limbs thanks to a team from Connecticut. The hospital, however, has reported that they are in desperate need of prosthesis specialists.

Giving Haitians a Voice in Rebuilding Haiti

"While Haitian resilience has been duly recognized around the world, few appear to be interested in talking to Haitians about how to rebuild their communities and how the billions likely to be pledged to their country will be used. And no one is talking about what recourse Haitians will have if promised projects are never completed, or worse, pledged money never arrives."

Loune Viaud, director of strategic planning and operations at Partners in Health, and Monika Kalra Varma, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, recently proposed possible strategies for helping to give Haiti control over its recovery.

To read this article, please click here.

Securing Women's Rights & Health Needs in Haiti

In the Huffington Post, Berlotte Israel and Margaret Satterthwaite discuss the need for empowering women through the country's rebuilding phase. Gender-based violence, high rates of pregnancy complication, and limited access to education are stark and troubling realities prior to and in the aftermath of this disaster. While meeting the immediate needs of safety and shelter, government officials and donor countries must also secure improved maternal health and equal access to education. To read this article, please click here.

Haiti has the highest fertility rate in the Western Hemisphere. Only 40% of the population had access to basic healthcare before the earthquake. Half of all deaths were caused by AIDS, respiratory diseases, meningitis and diarrheal diseases. 90% of children suffer from waterborne diseases and intestinal parasites.

Project Medishare is working to fully equip a new Maternal Health Center in Marmont. According to the Project Medishare blog, "When the maternal health center becomes fully operational it will be open 24/7 and will have trained staff available and living in the connecting residence. The center will focus on providing the full package of women's health services, including reproductive health education and services, family planning, HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, and prevention of mother to child transmission (PTME)."

Dallas Doctor's Moving Letter from Haiti

Dr. Bob Peters of Dallas recently traveled to Haiti with a medical team. He poignantly conveys his experience in a touching letter to his daughters. To read his letter, please click here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why Haiti's Quake Toll Higher Than Chile's

In the aftermath of last Saturday's earthquake in Chile, many people have been asking why the 8.8 earthquake, releasing 500 times more energy than the 7.0 in Haiti, caused significantly less damage. In a recent CNN article, Columbia University geophysicist Colin Stark speculated on why Haiti's quake toll is higher than Chile's.

Poverty is what ultimately kills most people during an earthquake. Poverty means that little or no evaluation is made of seismic risk in constructing buildings and no zoning takes place. It means that building codes are not written, and even if they do exist they are difficult, or impossible, to enforce. It means the choice between building robustly or building cheaply is not a choice at all.

Haiti is a tragic illustration of this. Weak building materials and poor construction standards share much of the blame for the grotesque number of fatalities, injured and internally displaced people.

Of course it's complicated. Earthquake shaking is a complex process and the chain of causation from earthquake source magnitude through infrastructural damage to human harm involves factors like the type of earthquake fault, its orientation, the hardness of bedrock or presence of wet soil, and so on. A lot also depends on the time of day the earthquake strikes in terms of how many people are inside the buildings that could collapse. Population density, distance from the epicenter, and the depth of the rupture are the most important factors of all.

Nevertheless, those countries most at risk of seismic tragedy are not simply those on tectonic plate boundaries, but also those with the least money to spend on protecting themselves.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Project Medishare - Transition to Rehabilitation

Dear Friends of Project Medishare,

More than six weeks have passed since Project Medishare's volunteer doctors and nurses arrived on the ground in Haiti to assist those devastated by the January 12th earthquake.

After working in the country for over 15 years, we have built strong relationships with the people of Haiti. These relationships allowed Project Medishare to be one of the first foreign medical teams on the ground immediately assisting those in need of critical care.

We are working towards transitioning our field hospital to be the first trauma and rehabilitation hospital in Haiti. Currently, this transition includes offering physical therapy and psychosocial support for those with spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as the many amputees who lose limbs due to severe crush wounds. So far, we have purchased over 500 prosthetic limbs for our patients at the field hospital in Port-au-Prince. Soon our volunteer doctors and nurses will begin working with amputees in the fitting for these limbs, as well as providing the physical therapy necessary to help these people work toward living normal, productive lives.

As you know, Project Medishare will continue to be a driving force in providing care for those affected by the disaster. We will be working in the coming months and years to help Haiti recover and rebuild. Our transition to rehabilitation demonstrates one of the many reasons we need your ongoing support.

The earthquake's damage lingers far beyond the city limits of Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake, Project Medishare's Community Health Program in Thomonde served 85,000 in the Central Plateau. After the quake, a mass exodus of over 400,000 people from Port-au-Prince migrated to rural Haiti in search of shelter. Our staff in the Central Plateau are already noticing a population explosion in Thomonde and Marmont. Such growth will place an additional burden on our ongoing health programs. Currently, we are conducting a census to determine how much our population has been affected by this mass migration.

We thank you for your ongoing support in helping us provide continuous care to all those we are serving in Haiti during this great time of need.

In Solidarity,
Dr. Barth Green (President) and Ellen Powers (Executive Director)


To make a donation to Project Medishare, please click here.

To read more about the problems facing rural Haiti since the earthquake, click here to read Ken Ellingwood's story in the L.A. Times: Haiti quake is beginning to be felt miles away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lake Erie College - Special Thanks

Last week, on Wednesday February 17, Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek spoke at Lake Erie College. It was a great success and we raised $1000 for Project Medishare.

I would like to thank the Students In Free Enterprise chapter of Lake Erie College, especially Steven Abbott and Erik Green. I would also like to thank President Michael Victor for his gracious hospitality, and the Center for Entrepreneurship for their generous donation. I would also like to thank Rev. Gerard Mirbel of the Miracle Revival Ministry in Painesville for delivering the benediction. Rev. Mirbel is a native of Haiti who has returned there on nine occasions since moving to the United States in 1983. He helps support a school of 600 students in Miragoane, Haiti and plans to go back in March.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Politics of Rebuilding

Lake Health Presents "An Insider's Look at Haiti"

Team Cleveland will speak on Thursday, February 25 at 6:30pm at TriPoint Medical Center (in the Lubrizol Conference Room of the Physician Pavilion). The event can also be viewed via video conference in the Main Conference Room of the West Medical Center.

The event is geared towards members of the medical community interested in getting involved in the ongoing Haiti disaster relief efforts. Space is limited. To register, please call the Best of Health Line at 440-953-6000 or 1-800-454-9800.

Lake Health is a leader in community health care in Northeast Ohio and was instrumental in Team Cleveland's effectiveness in the Haiti relief efforts.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kenyon College News Coverage (2/18)

Click here to read a recent article about our blog in Kenyon College's Collegian. I hope that it will motivate students at my alma mater to pick up the cause. The Kenyon College community is strong and supportive like none other I have experienced. Kenyonites are a wildly creative bunch, and I have no doubt they could come up with a tremendous fundraiser.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dr. Fitzgerald & Dr. Vanek to speak at Lake Erie College

Lake Erie College's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) has invited Dr. Vanek and Dr. Fitzgerald to share their first-hand accounts of the disaster in Haiti on Wednesday, February 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the Morley Music Building on their campus in Painesville.

The event is free and open to the public, as well as the Lake Erie College community. There will be free parking at the First Church of Christ located at 422 Mentor Ave. in Painesville across from the Austin Science Center. All donations collected at the event will go to Project Medishare.

For directions, please click here.
For more details about this event, please click here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interview with Project Medishare co-founder Dr. Barth Green

Dr. Barth Green, co-founder of Project Medishare, speaks with New American Media on February 5th about the most pressing health needs, logistical concerns, the response of the U.S. government, and long-term solutions.


How would you describe the country’s health infrastructure before the earthquake?

There are wonderful doctors and nurses in Haiti. But as far as a real health infrastructure, it didn’t exist, because they didn’t have the funding. They haven’t had the resources, the technology.

If you have a heart attack or stroke in Haiti, you die. There is not one angiogram machine in the whole country. Think about it - 10 million people, not one angiogram machine. They can’t catheterize a patient. It’s a totally different world, one hour from Miami.

What are Haiti’s most pressing health needs right now, and what are going to be its most pressing future health needs?

In three weeks, the rainy season begins, and there’s no doubt we’re going to have epidemic issues with malaria and dengue.

TB and HIV - there were hundreds of thousands of patients under treatment. They can’t get their medicines, there’s no place to go.

We’ve seen case after case of tetanus. I’ve been a physician for 40 years, and I’d never seen tetanus.

We’ve got tens of thousands of people disabled from amputations, from paralysis, spinal injuries, brain injuries. (These) people need (physical) rehab and there isn’t a good resource in Haiti now. There were small smatterings, but they were crushed.

Many aid workers have expressed concerns about a lack of coordination of the relief effort. Has this been your experience?

Right after the earthquake it was total chaos, it was a different world, but now we’re beginning to get our act together.

It’s not well coordinated between the different divisions and agencies, but it will be shortly because there’s a turnover plan. There’s organization about who’s going to do what - that’s good news.

What is your impression of the U.S. government’s response to the quake? What would you advise the U.S. government to do?

No nation in the world has invested more money and more effort and more resources than the U.S. The United States is committed to Phase 2, which is not just resuscitation, not just CPR for Haiti, but reconstruction to get it a better way.

The downside is the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. The DOD doesn’t talk to HHS, which doesn’t talk to USAID. It’s just very frustrating.

I’ll give you an example: There are 7,000 U.S. troops, heavily armed, on the ground there. We asked the U.S. government -- our government -- for some support, which would take about a total of 20 soldiers. They said no, they’re too busy. So we had to hire mercenaries to protect our camp. Is that right? I don’t think so ... we’re serving as the triage for the U.S. (Navy hospital ship) Comfort and for the medivacs, they’re using us as a staging center.

Were lives lost as a result of the temporary hold on humanitarian flights out of Haiti?

I know they were lost. The question is, would these people have died?

(Before the earthquake), we had (performed) the first kidney transplant in Haiti. The poor gentleman got into problems with his graft. It was right in the middle of the embargo on flights, and he died in the hospital, right next to the airplane. If the airplane was flying, would he be alive? I think so.

That’s just one example. There’s no doubt that lives were lost, but lives are being lost every day there because of inadequate medical facilities and staff and organization.

What are long term solutions regarding the transportation of critically ill Haitian patients?

The worst thing to do would be to put them on planes and fly them all over the U.S. The nuclear family would disappear. Sometimes there’s only one parent (and) if you take an adult to go with a child, the other children are orphans. If you take a husband who’s the provider to go with his son, the family is without anything.

The best thing to do and the best practices are what we’re doing right now. Today as we speak, CT scanners, MRI scanners, anesthesia equipment, ICU equipment, fluoroscopy -- all this is being flown in, it’s being set up in temporary hospitals … we’re going to put them in permanent structures. By treating them in Haiti, on the ground but with world class resources, you’re giving (patients) the opportunity, short term, to have the best care possible. Long term, we’re going to leave every piece of this equipment and we’re beginning to train our Haitian colleagues so when we hand off these hospitals in the next couple of months, they’ll be there forever. We’re not rebuilding Haiti the way it was, we’re rebuilding a different Haiti.

What advice would you give an aid worker heading to Haiti, to prepare psychologically?

There’s nothing you can do to prepare for what you’ll see. It’s life changing. I didn’t see one doctor or nurse who hadn’t cried and didn’t cry at one time, no matter how old, big, macho, whatever.

It’s really important for any for American going down there, or any foreign person, to step lightly. Remember these are a very proud, dignified people. I think a lot of things people do, especially in today’s media world, are inappropriate. People are sending out blogs with their own agendas on the internet. I would ask them to treat (Haitian patients) as they would their own family, be respectful. The good news is that 99.9 % of the people who are working with us are there for the right reasons.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Message from the Executive Director of Project Medishare

Dear Friends of Project Medishare,

Family members carried Evans Monsigrace into Project Medishare and University of Miami's Global Institute Hospital in Port-au-Prince Monday night after being pulled from the rubble 27 days after the earthquake. The 28-year-old has been selling rice when the quake destroyed the market where he was working. For four weeks he was trapped in a void of rubble. A large boulder, his only obstacle to freedom. Although trapped, Evans was able to move and gain access to minimal amounts of food and water helping him patiently wait for hopes of rescue.

He arrived at our trauma facility bone-thin and dehydrated, but after a night of fluids and care from the Project Medishare volunteers, he remains in stable condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Evans' story mirrors that of the hope and resilience of the Haitian people, but also demonstrates the ongoing need to continue our relief efforts to those traumatically affected by the January 12 earthquake. Television cameras are beginning to turn their lenses elsewhere, however there is still so much to be done.

Last week, volunteer medical teams lacked an incubator after delivering a premature baby by C-section, but came up with a ingenious warming solution by using MREs to warm the baby. The military's Meals-Ready-to-Eat come with flameless heaters that use a simple chemical reaction to warm food. Project Medishare's volunteer medical team from the University of Miami continue to work creatively like this to provide the best care possible to these earthquake victims, but appropriate equipment and supplies are still needed.

Haiti's Communications Minister, Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, reported yesterday the death toll from the quake has risen to 230,000. Haiti's Prime Minister reported over 300,000 are still in need of medical attention and over a million are homeless in the capital city.

Smaller clinics who were set up in the earlier days to provide acute care are now closing and referring their patients to other clinics like ours. As promised, we will continue to care for the Haitian people still affected by this humbling tragedy.

We still need funding to continue our efforts and prepare our hospital for the rainy season which is steadfastly approaching. If you have already given, we again thank you for your support. If you can do more, we ask for you to do so at this time.

In solidarity,
Ellen Powers, MPH
Executive Director

Cleveland Area Fundraisers

Help Haiti: Young Professionals Cocktail Event
This Friday, February 12, from 5:30-8:30pm at BarRoom/Cadillac Ranch (200 Euclid Ave), The Graduate Business Student Association of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University is holding a cocktail event to raise funds for MedWish International, a Cleveland-based non-profit. The event aims to unite young professionals of Cleveland to discuss further opportunities to engage in Haiti relief and rebuilding efforts. The event will include free appetizers and drink specials. They are asking for a $10 minimum donation.
For more information, click here or check our their event on Facebook.

Cleveland Hopkins Airport
Cleveland Hopkins Airport is partnering with MedWish International to take donations for Haiti relief. Donations of antibiotic ointment, bandages, rolled gauze, ace bandages, and other supplies will be accepted through Friday between 6am and 9pm. Donation bins will be at the north, center, and south ends of the ticketing level and on baggage claim at the Welcome Center.

Hawken for Haiti
Hawken School in Lyndhurst and Gates Mills has launched a school-wide initiative to support victims of the earthquake, with all funds being donated to MedWish International and Partners in Health, which was co-founded by Todd McCormack, class of '78. To read more about what Hawken has been doing, please click here.

Cleveland Jewish Community
The Jewish Community Federation, Mt. Zion Congregational Church in University Circle, and Star of David BBG have been supporting the relief efforts. To read more about what they have been doing, please click here.

Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA)
Students at the Cleveland Institute of Art are designing creative ways to help raise disaster relief funds. To read more, please click here and continue to check back with their blog for updates.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Update from the Haitian Community Hospital

We just received a letter from Kim Sassine, a nurse that took care of patients in ICU at the Haitian Community Hospital. Kim worked closely with Team Cleveland. A lawyer by day, she continues to work with patients in the afternoons and on weekends.


Hi Jack and Paul,

The hospital is now "under control." Many of the emergency post-earthquake patients have been cared for. We are now in fact seeing more "normal" cases (labors, cold, flu, various consultations), although we do get the occasional earthquake victim - yes, even a month after!

We are actually seeing some TB outbreaks, and a few meningitis cases. I do have a personal fear of some sort of epidemic breaking out.

I am also worried about [the mental and emotional health of some of the patients]. The French had a couple of psychologists come in to talk to patients. I think in the upcoming months it is going to become a serious issue for people here (foreigners and locals alike).

I still go to the hospital in the afternoons and weekends. Unfortunately, the current teams are completely new and we don't know each other at all.

It is really funny hearing some of these docs and nurses complain about having to work under these circumstances. Believe me when I say these guys are no working in a five star hospital compared to what you guys were dealing with. I try really hard not to laugh, not to roll my eyes, not to pat them on the back and especially not to tell them about my super troopers from Ohio and Sweden!

I don't know if you guys remember Hervé. He was the double BK amputee that you guys had evacuated to the American ship. I see and speak to him regularly. He said he enjoyed his trip on the ship. It wasn't the Comfort ship he was sent to but the USS Vincent. After a few days of wound care, he was discharged and sent back home. He was never sent to Jacksonville. He still comes to the hospital for dressing changes. His spirits are still high. This kid has a lot of heart. I brought him a tent earlier this week and some groceries. He now lives on a soccer field with his parents.

His leg appear to have healed fine. I was with him earlier this week and according to the Korean doctor doing his dressing change, his staples are to be removed probably at the end of the month. I am concerned about his left leg (which was the most infected one). It appears to have a dark coloring on the skin closest to the staples. The doctor assured me that it was not infected but was mostly dead skin cells. Unfortunately, a lot was lost in translation. I'm going to take a few pictures of his legs and send it to you both for some little long-distance consultation.

An agency came by several days ago to register all of our patients' information for a distribution of prosthetic limbs.

I actually Googled you guys recently and was not at all amazed to find out that you guys are a big deal. Go Ohio!

I hope this email finds you both well. I keep you both in my prayers and in my heart. We were all so blessed and are incredibly grateful that you and your team came in and did your medical magic.

My love to all,
Kim Sassine

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

About The Benefit

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Project Medishare at last night's Cleveland-Haiti Relief Benefit. It was a great success and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. We raised $3025 at the event, which brings our total donations to $7045!

Special thanks go to Marianne Frantz of the American Wine School for providing the venue, the wine, and the generous gift card we raffled off for courses at the wine school.

I would like to thank our many sponsors for providing the delicious food and many raffle prizes, and everyone who brought treats to share. The Earthquake wine Dr. Fitzgerald supplied was a big hit and a great way to cap off the evening. I am grateful to The Andi Foundation for providing us with a Hyde Park gift card for our raffle. The Andi Foundation, founded by Vicki and Andre Parhamovich in honor of their daughter who was killed in Iraq, helps young women fulfill their education and career dreams. I would also like to thank Joyce Barrett for donating her Cavs floor seats, and the Cavaliers organization for donating a Daniel Gibson autographed basketball. These generous gifts were a welcomed and unexpected surprise.

I'd also like to thank Debbie Harris for helping to organize this on such short notice. She did an amazing job.

Dr. Paul Vanek, Dr. Jack Fitzgerald and Jean Kurdas RN spoke eloquently. It was a privilege to hear their first-hand accounts of their relief efforts in Haiti. It was informative, heart-wrenching, and at times humorous. We were sorry that Theresa Jackson RN was unable to attend.

If anyone has photos from the benefit, please click here to contact me so I can arrange to receive them by e-mail.

Thanks again for everyone's continued support!

  

 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cleveland Haiti Relief Benefit


Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek spent a week in Haiti helping the earthquake victims. We tracked their journey on our blog. Now, let's join them in person and help raise money to continue Team Cleveland's support for Project Medishare.

On Monday, February 8, we will be holding a benefit at the American Wine School / Cellar Door from 6-8pm. It is located at 3355 Richmond Road, Beachwood, OH 44122.

Donations will be collected at the door, and there is a $25 minimum to attend. All drink proceeds will go to Project Medishare. Donations can be made by cash, check, or credit card.

Food will be provided by Moxie, Melange, Sushi Rock, and Pickwick & Frolic. Many other restaurants and businesses have graciously donated gift cards that we will raffle off, including Red, L'Albatross, Fleming's, XO Prime Steaks, Melange, Melting Pot, Alson Jewelers, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and Cookies By Design.
I'd like to thank Debbie Harris for helping to organize this and Marianne Frantz from the Cellar Door for her generous support.

For directions, please click here.
For more information, please call Brandon at 216.337.4894







Friday, February 5, 2010

Shaqtastic News!

Cleveland Cavalier Shaquille O'Neal is a strong supporter of Project Medishare. Click here to see a video of him talking about the Haiti relief efforts. To order the t-shirt he is holding in this photo, please click here.

On his twitter account he recently wrote, "Peace to organizations like Projectmedishare.org [...] They are really doin big things in haiti, thanks"

Dr. Fitzgerald wore his Cavs hat the entire time he was in Haiti. He mentioned that many of his patients were big fans of Lebron and Shaq.

Thanks Shaq! Cleveland is proud to have you as a Cavalier!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Haitian Creole Language

Creole, or Kreyòl, is the language spoken by about 80% of the Haitian population. Along with French, it is one of Haiti's two official languages. It is the most widely spoken creole language in the world. Translators are in high demand during this crisis, and priority is given to medical volunteers with a background in Creole or French.

Here is a list of some common Creole words and phrases that Dr. Fitzgerald took with him to Haiti:
Bonjou - Good morning
Bonswa - Good afternoon
Komoan ou yet? - How are you?
N'ap boule - Good
Wi - Yes
Non - No
Mesi - Thank you
Merite - You're welcome
Tout bagay anfoam? - Is everything OK?
Atansyon! - Watch out!
Kote Ii ou fe mal? - Where does it hurt you?
Nou bezwen yon dokte - We need a doctor
Nou bezwen pansman - We need bandages
Kisa ki rive ou? - What happened to you?
Kisa ou bezwen - What do you need?

For more information about the Haitian Creole language, please click here.

Photo of Dr. Vanek in Surgery

Dr. Vanek performs limb salvage surgery at the Haiti Community Hospital on January 21 at 10:21 pm. Photo courtesy of Yan from Team Sweden.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Message from the Executive Director of Project Medishare

Here is an abridged version of a letter sent out by Ellen Powers, Executive Director of Project Medishare:

Dear friends of Project Medishare,

Some 16 days after the Haiti earthquake, Project Medishare continues saving lives. The news cameras are beginning to leave but the most difficult work still lies ahead.

At the request of the Haitian Government, we are operating one of the largest field trauma hospitals in Port-au-Prince and have deployed more than 500 medical, administrative and logistic professionals to staff this 300-bed, tent-based critical-care hospital with four operating rooms and an ICU.

Retired NBA star Alonzo Mourning has provided generous funding to help pay for the hospital and has traveled to Haiti with our teams twice to help. Please click here to hear a special audio message from Alonzo Moruning.

Project Medishare has also assumed the role of triage alongside the U.S. military and managing medical evacuations of the most critical patients.

Project Medishare has a permanent presence in Haiti and we are committed to staying in this fight for the long haul. Already our long-standing rural health programs are being overwhelmed by the exodus from Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of thousands of women and children still need access to prenatal care, vaccinations, nutritional monitoring and other lifesaving healthcare.

Eventually our plan is to transition our tent-based field hospital to a Ministry of Health-managed permanent facility, leaving behind a first-class trauma hospital where none has existed before. We are also integrating local Haitian doctors and nurses into our operations in an effort to better train each other.

Ellen Powers, MPH
Project Medishare
Executive Director

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Mathematics of Donations

MSNBC.com published an article today explaining how the mathematics of donations favor cash contributions over goods. Good but misplaced intentions can "hinder even the most ambitious recovery efforts."

"From volunteer medical teams who show up uninvited, to stateside donors who ship boxes of unusable household goods, misdirected compassion can actually tax scarce resources, costing time, money, energy -- and lives."

"Old clothes, canned goods, water and outdated prescriptions are accumulating" but are "expensive to sort, to transport and to distribute."

Aid organizations like Project Medishare are encouraging cash donations that allow them to "buy in bulk from large suppliers and retailers."

"When people give $1, it translates into $7 in the field. If they spend $5 for bottled water, [...] probably it costs us more than $5 to send it. If they give us $5, we can get $35 worth of water."

Donors should take the time to research NGOs and check for their 501.3 status. Sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator are great places to investigate the legitimacy of an NGO.

Also in high demand are skilled healthcare professionals, preferably with a language background in Creole or French and with prior experience in disaster relief efforts or in developing nations.

To read the complete article at MSNBC.com please click here.

If you would like to donate to Project Medishare, please click here.

If you are a healthcare professional who would like to volunteer with Project Medishare, please click here.

Tamaqua, PA Newspaper Coverage

Dr. Vanek, a native of Tuscarora, PA has been making headlines in his hometown newspaper, Times News.

Click here to read the paper's first article covering Dr. Vanek's planned trip to Haiti.

Click here to read staff writer Bob Urban's suggestion that the Tamaqua Area School District invite Dr. Vanek to speak at this year's commencement ceremonies.

Click here to read the newspaper's coverage of Dr. Vanek's return home. "No matter how much I did, there was more to do." "They need doctors and nurses. People are needed there right now."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank You Letter from Dr. Fitzgerald

Dear family and friends,

I can hardly begin to tell you how happy I am to be back home. Haiti was a life-changing experience I will never forget. I am so grateful for all that I have here. The Haitian people have lived with so little for so long, and the earthquake has left them with even less. They are a resilient people and with the world's support they will bounce back. Some things can never be replaced, but I was grateful for the opportunity to give back as much as I could. I am proud of the way that America has answered the call and stepped up to the plate. I know how hard we worked, but I just wish that we could have helped more. Dr. Paul Vanek was truly amazing and I could not have asked for anyone better to work with. Theresa Jackson, RN and Jean Kurdas, RN touched countless lives and the Haitians love them.

I would like to thank my family and friends who kept me, my team, and the Haitian people in your thoughts and prayers. I could not have gotten through it without all your support. I am glad my son, Brandon, was able to act as a liaison and keep all of you informed through his blog. He was also able to convey to me many of your words of support while I was in Haiti, which comforted me through the long days. Knowing that you were so supportive provided us continuous encouragement and energy and lifted our spirits. I want to thank everyone who made a charitable contribution, whether to Project Medishare or to any one of the many other incredible relief organizations. Your gifts are lifesaving.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank Project Medishare, the entire Cleveland team, Team Sweden, Lieut. Col. Wilson, everyone at the Haiti Community Hospital, and Amway for flying us home on their corporate jet.

Even though our team returned, the relief effort will continue for a long time and I encourage other teams to organize medical relief efforts deployed to Haiti soon.

Love you all,
Jack

Thank You Letter from Dr. Vanek

A letter written by Dr. Vanek and printed in the News Herald on February 7, 2010.


On behalf of the Cleveland team deployed by Project Medishare, I would like to express my sincere thanks. I am so grateful to be back home in America. From the start of this life-altering trip, the love and support of the people of Lake County and the Cleveland area has been felt by our team members.

Beginning with Dr. Ted Nichols, LakeHealth was totally supportive in both encouragement as well as material support. The more than $27,000 in antibiotics and supplies allowed us to be effective as soon as we arrived. Nichols authorized this without hesitation. Dr. Jack Fitzgerald volunteered upon hearing the news that a local physician was planning to leave for Haiti. His professionalism and skills allowed countless patients to have comfort and surgical care under the most trying circumstances. He facilitated the success of our team effort with his tireless work on behalf of the Haitian people. The LakeHealth nurses, Jean Kurdas and Theresa Jackson, touched countless lives and the Haitians love them.

I would like you all to know that we were sustained by the knowledge that our family, friends and well-wishers were praying for us and the Haitian people. The peace of mind this gave me is difficult to put into words. It allowed me to focus my determination to succeed. I would like to thank Brandon Fitzgerald for setting up a way for the Cleveland area to monitor some of our activities.

My family and I were out of communication and his blog served them to stay up to date. Jack read aloud to me from his BlackBerry the words of comfort and support that lifted my spirits and further energized me. I want to thank everyone who made a charitable contribution, whether to Project Medishare or to any one of the many other relief organizations. Your gifts are lifesaving.

I'd also like to thank the volunteers of Project Medishare who worked tirelessly to get our team to Haiti, American Airlines, the entire Cleveland team, Team Sweden from Star of Hope, Lt. Col. Wilson, everyone who shared our zeal at Haiti Community Hospital and Amyway for flying us home on their corporate jet.

The relief effort will continue for a long time. The world community is there helping the terrible conditions we see on TV every night. I call upon the medical community of Cleveland to mobilize and go to Haiti as soon as possible as lives will be saved by immediate intervention. My sincerest thanks and requests for your continued prayers for those involved in the Haitian relief effort.

Dr. Vanek on NPR

Dr. Vanek was recently interviewed by Eric Wellman on WCPN (National Public Radio). He relates a story about a young man whose leg they desperately needed to amputate. "Trying to sensitively convey that to him through an interpreter means kneeling down at his bedside and holding his hand and telling him we love him and that we love his life more than he has to love his leg."

He goes on to say, "I'm so appreciative for things like running water and the things I have in my home and my life and my community." "We're Americans and we need to be down there."

To listen to the complete interview, please click here.

Photos from Team Cleveland

I am happy to bring you photos from Team Cleveland! These photos say more than this blog ever could. Dr. Vanek and Dr. Fitzgerald talked about how important digital photographs were at the hospital. Volunteers would take photos of the victims' wounds and relay them to the surgeons to help the teams prioritize patients and determine how best to proceed with surgeries and patient care. It is remarkable the role technology can play in facilitating such a monumental relief effort. I have omitted any photos I deemed too graphic, but some photos depict surgeries and amputees that might upset some. To check out the photos, please click here.



Click here to see more photos from the Haiti Community Hospital taken by Tiffany Hein. [Note: these do not include any of Cleveland team]

Photographer Tomas Loewy--born in Prague and now living in Miami--has put together a photo album documenting the work of Project Medishare's doctors in Haiti. [Note: these do not include any of our Cleveland team] Click here to see his album.

Interreligious Fundraiser for Project Medishare

On Tuesday, I met with the SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) group at Lake Erie College in Painesville. I have signed on as an advisor to help them organize a fundraiser for Project Medishare. I was very impressed with the group and their interest in supporting the relief effort. They are hoping to organize churches/temples in Northeast Ohio to set up a supplementary collection that will go to Project Medishare for the purchase of much-needed medicine, supplies and equipment. If your church or temple would like to get involved, please contact us here.

SIFE is a nonprofit organization that gives students the tools to learn the free enterprise system in a real working situation. SIFE challenges students on more than 800 college campuses nationwide to take what they're learning in the classroom and use their knowledge to better their communities. Guided by faculty advisors, SIFE teams establish a variety of community outreach programs that teach free enterprise.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Moving Story about one of the Team's Patients

The Cleveland team found this 6-year old girl who arrived at the HCH hospital accompanied by her aunt. Both her parents were killed in the earthquake. She was immediately prioritized and despite some concerns from other doctors, Dr. Fitzgerald assured Dr. Vanek that he could anesthetize the patient without issue. The Cleveland team were confident they could operate effectively. Their professionalism persevered over such an emotional case. Dr. Vanek successfully performed a fasciotomy and ulnar nerve decompression which means arm surgery. He also performed face and scalp surgery.

The team remained very close with this patient. They are confident the girl will recover and go on to live a long life. As you can see in the picture, tape was secured to the foreheads of post-op patients indicating what operating room they were treated in. Vanek and Fitzgerald worked out of OR 3. The tape allowed them to routinely check up on their own patients and occasionally replace the dressings, helping to ensure speedy recovery without infection. Although they may never hear from any of these patients again, they have great hope for their recoveries and were impressed with the New York team that replaced them.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Home From Haiti

I met up with my dad, Dr. Fitzgerald, at about 1pm today. I met Dr. Vanek for the first time and thanked him for all that he has done. He is a humble, down-to-earth, and all-around good guy. We drove over to WKYC in Cleveland so that they could be interviewed. Disheveled and unshaven--as you can see from the video here--they literally had just "stepped off the boat" so to speak but were so relieved to be home. You can also read the article by clicking here.

From there, we drove back to Dr. Vanek's home in Mentor and met his wonderful family. I also had the opportunity to meet Theresa Jackson, one of the Cleveland-area nurses with whom they volunteered. I had heard so much about all these people and was so happy to finally get the chance to meet them. Reporters from the News Herald and the Plain Dealer came over to interview them. Click here to read the The Plain Dealer article and click here to read The News Herald article. The mood was very emotional, particularly when Dr. Vanek described watching a piece on CNN of a small girl who died as her family tried to rescue her from the rubble by attempting amputation. This, he described, was the impetus for his trip to Haiti.

I felt privileged to spend the day listening to their stories -- from the miracles to the tragedies -- wide-eyed and attentive. Their tales were full of hope, gratitude, sadness, relief, uncertainty, humility, respect, exhaustion, concern, and joy. But never did they once feel helpless. They knew that as long as they were there, there was something they could do to help. I imagine they even surprised themselves by what they were able to accomplish at times. The two of them--always talking on top of each other or in unison--struck me as brothers or as soldiers who had shared a special bond in war.

I could tell that they all looked out for each other. The closer they worked as a team, they knew, the better they could care for the well-being of everyone around them. Their humility impressed me above all else--always thanking the other or crediting another with some particular success--but it was clear to me that they had saved many lives. They reminded themselves throughout the experience that they were acting as ambassadors of Cleveland, and our city can be proud of the work they did there and the way they carried themselves.

We welcome you home, and we hope others will follow in your footsteps. Vanek and Fitzgerald stressed the need for immediate patient care, and hope other Cleveland doctors, nurses, and hospitals will act directly and with urgency. They expressed thanks to Lake Health, Team Sweden, Lieut. Col. Wilson, everyone at the HCH hospital, everyone with Project Medishare, and everyone back home and around the country (even the world!) who has given of themselves in one way or another.

I would like to thank everyone following my blog. People have been visiting from hundred of cities and more than a dozen countries, including Canada, Sweden, France, Kuwait, South Korea, and England. Please continue to check back for more updates. I also hope to post some words from Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek addressing all you readers, as well as whatever photographs they had a chance to take. If you would like to support the organization that made all their good work possible, please donate here. Your gift well help doctors like them save lives. If you are a doctor, healthcare professional, or institution/organization interested in helping Haiti Relief in a more hands-on way, please contact us here.

Photos from the Plane

Here are some photos of Dr. Fitzgerald, Dr. Vanek, and Dr. Soong on a Gulfstream G5 on its way from Port-au-Prince to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Evening Update

I am so very happy to report that the entire Cleveland team has made it back safely. I received a message from Jack at 11:30am letting me know that he was taking a tap-tap [a brightly-colored cab] to the airport and was planning on leaving today. I was hesitant to report this news in case he could not get out of Port-au-Prince for some reason. [editor's note 1/27: I recently learned that when arriving at the airport they witnessed a vehicle run over someone's leg. Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek loaded this person onto the tap-tap for transfer to a medical clinic at the airport]

A few hours later, at 4:15 pm, he described to me the chaos at the airport:
We arrived at airport and we're in a long line to board military jet. We saw a pilot from a private jet owned by Amway and ran to him to see if he might fly us back. he is working hard to get us approved.

Dr. Fitzgerald, Dr. Vanek, and Dr. H. Kaz Soong, an ophthalmologist from Ann Arbor, were graciously taken on by this pilot and were in the air sometime around 5:00pm. They landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan sometime around 9:30pm. The three were then on their way to Ann Arbor, where Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek will spend the night before making the drive back to Cleveland sometime tomorrow.

We will all be happy to welcome them home.

Theresa Jackson reported at 6:53pm that she made it home safely. She writes, "Special thanks to Dr. Vanek, Dr. Fitzgerald, Col. Wilson, Erica and family. I also would like to thank Project Medishare and the local Haitians who helped at the HCH hospital. It was great to see all the people come together to help. I am looking forward to returning to Haiti to continue the assistance in the relief efforts."

I am certain that the Cleveland team's involvement in the Haiti relief effort does not end here, and neither does this story:

Hospitals and clinics supported and staffed by Project Medishare are still running around-the-clock in an effort to address the surgical needs of the victims of the earthquake. The organization is also committed to the long-term care of the victims and will be involved in rebuilding the healthcare infrastructure that they did so much to improve since their founding in 1994. The road ahead is a long one. I encourage everyone to continue to spread the word about this group's fine work. I hope that the stories I have shared here serve as a testament to the power of individuals to come together in hopes of doing some good in the face of overwhelming crisis.

I will continue to update this blog as a more complete story of the team's time there begins to emerge. I may edit earlier posts to paint a more complete picture of the events of the day. I also hope to bring you more photos and news reports whenever I can collect them. Several of us here in Cleveland are planning a benefit to welcome the team home and to support Project Medishare's commitment to Haiti relief. A tentative date has been set for February 8. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Evening Update

I'm doing well. Had nice soup and Swedish wheat crackers with lobster and shrimp out of a tube. We are getting a pizza tonight. Major score. $35 each.

We are working hard. I am very fortunate to have the skills that can help these people. It's been an education and I applaud the countless people here and back home that are rallying in such a disaster.

Monday Morning Update

We are operating on a 20-year old male with gangrene of the right leg. His family refuses amputation so we will debride his leg and treat him with antibiotics. [Debridement involves the surgical removal of dead or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue] We first reported on this patient on the blog's Sunday Afternoon Update. [editor's note 1/27: learned that the patient was wearing #23 for Cavalier Lebron James and is also a big fan of Shaq. Jack was impressed by what Dr. Vanek was able to accomplish and believes that under the care of the New York team still there, he has a very good chance of surviving.]

The "Swedish NY Times" just arrived and their photographer, Jorgen Hildebrandt, is taking some photos of the surgery. [Jorgen, who was born in Denmark, is a photojournalist who has lived in Asia and Yugoslavia, and now resides in Sweden] He works for a newspaper called "Expression" in Sweden. We are trying to get copies of his photos.

Jack also talks about Guunar, who he describes as the rugged, fearless naval officer in charge of the Sweden team.  He worked 9 years for NATO, planned the response to 9/11 in NYC, and now works for Star of Hope, where he has worked for the last 10 years.

Dr. Jack Lafontant, liaison to the Ministry of Health, is currently coordinating patient transfers between hospitals to make the best use of what space is available. This primarily includes the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy-owned floating clinic. In order to transfer critically ill patients to the well-equipped ship, other patients need to first be taken off the ship. This has involved a major logistical plan to bring more patient beds into the various hospitals/clinics.

Sunday Evening Update

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division just walked over to my tent and checked up on us. They told us prisoners got loose and to beware of anyone wearing red bandannas. They are a gang. It sounds bad but I'm planning our exit with the Sweden team hopefully by helicopter out of this country. The conditions outside the hospital are not good.

We took care of a lot of patients today and there is much to be done tomorrow. This will go on a long time and the whole world is helping.

France has a huge team in charge of dressing wounds for people outside HCH hospital. We have more surgeons than ORs but we work together.  For example, an eye doctor and plastics doctor worked together to help a woman with severe eyelid, nose and facial trauma. Paul Vanek did an amazing job on that woman just a few hours ago.

Sticking with team Sweden.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Update from Dr. Vanek

Hello to all at home,

I have been blessed to coordinate the Cleveland team with Team Sweden to do a lot more efficient cases and patient care. My Swedish vocabulary for operative equipment and commands as a surgeon is improving. They are awesome and have helped sustain us all and me in particular. Dr. Stefan Redeén [a general surgeon from Stockholm] and I have done a lot of operations from morning through late at night. I have much to share with you in the coming days and weeks.

I wanted to acknowledge that you are all praying for me in Haiti. My team has been wonderful. The presence of medical staff at this critical time has been lifesaving for so many. It is humbling to see the amount of selfless work that has been done by the volunteers of the world and America. I am only one team of many who have made the decision that we must respond.

We are hearing a lot of terrible things about the conditions as the society breaks down. The Haitian people are sweet, kind and gracious. They are all so appreciative of the resources of material that Cleveland has mustered to help them. They are so nice to the Doctors and the staff. People from around the world have mobilized to come to the aid of Haiti.


I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Love to you all,
Paul Vanek, M.D.

Sunday Afternoon Update

Spoke with Jack on the phone for the first time since he has been in Haiti. Reports have come in since this morning that violence is escalating at an alarming rate, as people grow more desperate. He says that the black market is widespread, and some people have resulted to stealing medicine, equipment, food, and water. As a result, the hospital brought in a security guard this morning and they are expecting 10 armed soldiers from the UN military this evening who will remain there. From here on in, wrist bands will be distributed identifying everyone as either a a patient or a translator (whom he says are in short supply and desperately needed). Medical volunteers will wear ID tags around their necks. No one else will be allowed inside the hospital. He worries that as soon as supplies arrive, they seem to leave right out the backdoor. As a result, the Cleveland team has been very protective of their supplies and belongings

The orphanage here was heavily damaged by the quake with over 200 deaths I'm told. But on the other hand the prisoners mostly escaped unharmed. We heard 10,000 prisoners escaped. Since the earthquake struck at the heart of Port-au-Prince the impact is much worse and long lasting. Their banks were destroyed along with their equivalent of the IRS and of course the Presidential Palace. One Congressman was killed.

They had to airlift a patient to the USNS Comfort. People kept showing up claiming to be the team responsible for his delivery, only to leave not with the patient but only with their photo-ops. While many reporters have brought much-needed attention to the crisis, some have been disruptive. This is a distressing consequence. As we continue to watch the crisis from abroad, we must always be aware that everything we see and hear is in some way being filtered (and worse, sometimes staged) and that the true heroes are the doctors and nurses who are only there to help save lives.

They need to get patients off of USNS Comfort in order for hospitals like our to send critical patients to them for better care. We try to send our sickest patients that we believe can survive with expert medical care that otherwise will likely do poorly here.

New teams of volunteers continue to arrive at the hospital, including teams from New York, Nebraska, and Kansas. As we reported before, his Cleveland team has integrated with the Sweden team. Jack says that the Swedes there have a lot of experience with rescue and relief efforts including Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, and the Indonesian Tsunami. Volunteers from France are coordinating efforts outside the hospital and working on minor wounds. Inside, the volunteers are working in 12 hour shifts (from 7 to 7) with a 2 hour overlap in order to bring the next shift up to speed. Many cases involve infections, broken bones and sadly, amputations.

I have a 20 year old young man that has two long cuts on his right leg 20 centimeters each with gangrene and dead muscle exposed. He needs his leg amputated or he will die from the infection. His mother refuses amputation because the bone is not broken. We told them to think about it overnight and we will ask for permission tomorrow. It's a terrible choice for him.

I asked the hospital administrator what percent of the nurses working here are back to work. he said maybe 50% max. Some of the hospital leaders were killed and thus some staff won't return. Everyone is afraid to go inside building -- including hospitals.

It is a very fast-paced environment, and Jacks says that he is fascinated by the logistics of it all. As we wrapped up our conversation, he was about to sit down to a hot meal, for which he was very grateful. I, in turn, was grateful to hear from him and to know that he is OK.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Update

Dr. Vanek and I have integrated into the Swiss Team called Star of Hope. They have a logistics team with them that arranges preparation of meals, sleeping area under the stars, cold beverages always available, and they maintain a neat and clean campsite. The Swedes have 2-way radios between the Operating Room and their campsite on the roof of the hospital. They have hot coffee and have lots of unusual snacks. I enjoyed some crackers that covered with Kalles Kaviar (caviar) out of a tube like toothpaste. They also have Kalles Bacon (delicious!) and Kalles Cheese. I also learned that peanut butter is very expensive in Sweden and I scored big when I gave them 4 small jars of Jif.

To read more about Star of Hope, click here.

What Your Support Means

Almost two weeks after the earthquake, Project Medishare is still at the forefront of efforts to bring urgently needed medical care to victims. They were the first to respond, and continue to operate with great efficiency and efficacy thanks to Project Medishare's strong relationships and long experience working in Haiti. Click here to learn more about the organization's history with Haiti.

The extraordinary support of local and national benefactors has been nothing short of miraculous. Friends, family, neighbors, fellow Clevelanders, and even caring strangers have played an important part in that miracle.

Thank you to those of you who have already given. To date, we have raised $2300. Your generous gift will support doctors like Jack and Paul in their critical relief efforts. If you have not given, please click here to make your tax-deductible donation through our Cleveland-Haiti Relief Fund Team, an officially registered fund raising team with Project Medishare. All contributions will go directly and immediately to Project Medishare's Earthquake Relief Fund, which provides medicine, supplies, and equipment in order to re-establish Haiti's health infrastructure, helping to make the transition from rescue and relief to rebuilding. On Thursday, Congress passed H.R. 442, legislation which will make Haiti relief donations made up until March 1, 2010 deductible on 2009 income taxes.

Please keep Jack, Paul, Theresa, and Jean in your thoughts and prayers. Your love and support brings them great comfort and sustains them in what must be an alarming and challenging time.

Reports on Surgery Conditions

Click here to read an article from Doctors Without Borders about the need for long-term post-operative care, concerns about the structural stability of hospitals, and the need for healthcare outside the city of Port-au-Prince.

British surgeon Paul McMaster working for Doctors Without Borders reports on surgery conditions, lack of medical supplies, and logistical problems. Click here to read this article from The Independent.


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