Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Haiti, January 22

There was incredible activity in the compound today at the University Hospital. We suffered through a few more aftershocks and had to permanently evacuate a large building, so once again patients were outside in the brutal heat. Under tarps and rapidly deployed tents, we treated them with fluids and attention to their now-week old wounds. The operating rooms were still busy doing amputations and revisions of the same as well as beginning to bear the burden of a normal surgical load.

An 84 year old woman was extracted alive from under rubble, amazingly alive and with a blood pressure and spontaneous breathing. She was totally emaciated and dehydrated, and her situation was quite tenuous. She may not survive, but the fact that she made it this far demonstrates the limit of human endurance. What strength! We initiated her treatment and were able to transfer her to a higher level of care.

The days are still nonstop from dawn to dusk under intense heat and constant commotion. I am now doing quite a bit of administrative work and am assuming a role to help organize the entire operation, including the logistics of water, food, sanitation, operating room needs and schedules, coordinating volunteers, arranging for shelter, caring for orphans, interfacing with the military, and so forth. The people with whom I have worked, from Haiti and all other nations, have been incredible. We are becoming a family.

I realize now that had I not come here, I would have had a hole in my heart. The enormity of suffering is beyond comprehension, but we are learning to comprehend it and must move forward. I have learned as much as I have contributed, so that I will be prepared for the next days and the future. If you are reading this blog, you are living in a better place, so be compassionate and help out any way that you can.

Today's story is about our 5 year old survivor of a week beneath the rubble. He was pulled from the ground and came to our team emaciated, dehydrated, frightened and confused. (For reference, we have heard that some victims under the rubble were forced to try to drink their own sweat and blood from faces dripping into open mouths. I apologize for being graphic, but this is reality.) Our doctors and nurses gently hydrated him, then began to nurse him back to health. He has made a remarkable recovery, as have others. With so many people affected, there will be many such stories, but for each tale with a happy ending, there are thousands with a tragic outcome.

Learn to love, to give back, to make a contribution, to make the world a better place. And be prepared. There are many lessons here.
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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.