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Haiti Update: The More They Remain the Same...

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 the information, at times, 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 26, 2010

The more they remain the same...

At one point of the day, Dr. Paul Auerbach turned to me and said, “isn't funny that no matter where you are, kids are always the same.” We were driving to the General Hospital and looking at two children playing and happy, oblivious of the rubble around them. For the most part, Paul was right. Despite the endless sad stories contained in the hospital walls, the people of Haiti exhibit the same resilience as those kids. They show enough strength and hope and belief to keep moving forward. Certainly enough to keep us going.

Some aid workers must stop, and some good friends are moving on—like Mike, Benjamin, and Abby from Mount Sinai.

I never really learned their last names. We never learned each other’s last names. I think Mike was the chairman of their surgery department. You wouldn't know it because he was the first surgeon to leave the operating room and make daily rounds through the entire facility with me. We pulled patients from a wooded area on campus and took them directly to the OR or cleaned their wounds where they rested.

Right about the time that Sanjay Gupta was considering the fact that there was too many doctors, Mike was identifying the real issue—the lack of organization and began quickly building a structured surgical service. By the time CNN aired its show, the confusion of multiple surgeons working independently was fixed.

But there are always problems one can't fix. We want to give everyone a job but must work with the hospital administration to fill positions. Guyto, Davidson, Reggie, and Lawrence worked with me from day one and helped to get things moving. But I can't find them all spots at the hospital.

The most poignant moment came yesterday when Bob Norris found the cousin of the woman who died in our care. We rushed her to the disaster medical assistance tent in the back of a pickup. Bob always takes personal responsibility for people (which make him good) and had to tell her that her cousin died.  It is never something you get comfortable with, but he did his best.  She cried, thought about the future, and just asked for a job at the hospital so she could make it without being a burden on her relatives. Knowing he couldn’t get her a job, Bob went into the headquarters, came back and gave her all the money he had. I don't think any of us expect to leave with anything.

Anil Menon
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About the Author

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