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Haiti Update: After the Aftershock

Editor's Note: Healthline blogger and Stanford University emergency medicine instructor Dr. Anil Menon is in Haiti to help with the global effort to provide medical care in the wake of the January 12 earthquake. Because communication outlets are limited, he has been sending updates to his mother via text message. She has been transcribing those messages for us so we can pass them along to you. Please know, these updates are being relayed directly from Dr. Menon, and some of the information is graphic and might be emotionally difficult for some people to read. We will be posting new updates as we receive them in the days ahead.  

January 20, 2010

The earthquake woke me up this morning. I ran for the exit without thinking because I saw other people running, and I followed. This aftershock led to a few interesting events.  Firstly, a Portuguese reporter got scared and jumped from the balcony of our one-storied dwelling. He was promptly surrounded by doctors and had a blanket wrapped around him as a precaution.  He thought he fractured his ankle and confessed he was embarrassed by the whole event. Another doctor in our group commented that he should be embarrassed because the reporter showed a failure to exercise good judgment as well as demonstrated his failure to fly.

Secondly, the result of the aftershock was no one at the hospital would return to the building. One woman confessed that when she heard a door open she would shudder with terror. Because of their refusal, we’re finding very sick patients, waiting to be treated, are exposed to too much sunlight. Still they don’t want to be inside a building, even if it’s a hospital.

We worked to adapt and overcome this fear by building outdoor tents. Even so, it was still hot.  Luckily supplies and help are picking up. We can now get intravenous fluids into patients. One translator was moving beds and patients outdoors. Even the patients who couldn't run and remained behind, refused to stay indoors. Though he smiled in this picture our translator told me he was exhausted by early morning. He was healthy.

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About the Author

The Stanford Emergency Room is the center of emergency care at Stanford University.