Sun | Sep 24, 2023

No relief for quake workers

Published:Monday | January 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer

Port-au-Prince, Haiti:

Babies' cries, blood-soaked cotton balls on the ground, big flies, small flies, a heavy and lingering foul stench, bustling doctors, broken limbs, missing limbs with off-white almost yellow stumps, and body odour are some of the elements that have become part of the daily routine of Haiti's relief efforts.

The Centre de Sante Bernhard Meus is one of many locations where patients go to seek medical treatment for themselves or for their loved ones. Approximately 25 injured persons occupied beds or were lying on cardboard. There were patients who arrived with heavy trauma and were lying in beds on a makeshift ward outside. All of them speak French, makingit difficult for the doctors, who don't speak the language, to communicate.

Orthopedic surgeon, Dr Edgar Abbott, waved a Haitian doctor down to translate the words "broken bone" to Holland, an earthquake victim, who had a very noticeable swollen hand.

Abbott helped Holland put his right arm into a sling and in no time, Holland was on his way saluting persons as he left.

Still searching for victims

The smile on Holland's face was disturbed every now and then by a grimace and the clenching of teeth, small reminders of the ordeal he had just been through.

Some of the capital's streets are in chaos, with traffic at a standstill and rubble everywhere. Persons were wearing masks, chewing gum and roaming the streets in search of food.

"We went to rescue a young woman who was trapped under a building that collapsed," Daniel Bedford, superintendent of the national terminal at the airport, said.

He shook his head as he explained a dog's reaction to the site on which she was found. The dog, trained to identify living persons trapped in the debris, stood there.

"It had no reaction," Bedford said. "We knew she was dead. Plus, we could smell the odour of someone who died."

Bedford, like many Haitians, is adapting to the new living conditions brought about by the earthquake.

"I went downtown to visit my grandmother's store to see the status of it. My mother told me to go and see the status of the store downtown, which her father bought in 1914.

"I parked a car on the street and I didn't walk to the store, I ran because I was fearful of the people who were downtown."

The front of the store was demolished, but the structure still stands. Since his grandmother passed away three years ago, Bedford and his mother had plans to sell the store. Those plans no longer exist. He is also without a stable home, as that too was destroyed in the earthquake.

Life continues

Bedford said life still goes on, as shown by the market in downtown Port-au-Prince.

"People are selling and you know life goes on, but we need to rebuild."

While some Haitians struggle to find basic necessities such as water, food and clothing, others are nursing their wounds on their own.

A man walked in, visibly struggling under the weight of a woman who he was carrying on his back. The back of her foot was scabbing, yet there was fresh blood. About an hour later, she was balancing her leg on a bench, allowing the blood to drip on paper that lined the ground underneath.

The cafeteria at the Centre de Sante Bernhard Meus is now a storage space for boxes of medication, and there still isn't enough.

"We have no IVs," Jennifer Bitar, wife of Dr Marlon Bitar, who runs the centre, said.

"I hate hearing people scream," she said, after digging through a box in the storage room.

The cries continue. An infant kept saying "mama, mama, mama" over and over again. The cries became louder and louder, sending a nurse into the cafeteria to dry the tears she couldn't stop. Upon realising she wasn't alone, she went into another room.