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Haiti Update: Unlikely Survivors and Another Quake

Editor's Note: Healthline blogger 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 19, 2010

Today was a blur because we were pushing so hard. A 70-year-old woman was pulled out of the rubble today. She was quite thin, able to talk to us, and stoic, just like everyone else with a tibia and fibula fracture. Yesterday, a 14-year-old girl was pulled out alive. Her family, mother, father, and three siblings, sat at the table for dinner, when the ceiling collapsed. The parents spent all this time trying to find the girls. She survived but the other two died. The father brought his surviving daughter into the center because she had pain in the right leg and now couldn’t move it. The leg was tense, swollen, painful, and appeared to be a fracture. The fracture transformed into a compartment syndrome. Heather, our nurse, and I attempted an IV and couldn’t get one because the girl had no water in her system. There was one vein in her neck that I could see but because of dehydration, her skin was tough. I thought I would fail. But with a little luck, I saw a flash of blood and we started giving her fluids. We feared she might lose her leg.

A Belgian group of nephrologists brought some dialysis machines. Soft spoken and concerned, they offered their service today. They had the ability to check blood levels of electrolytes with a I-STAT machine I wasn’t sure about its utility in our acute ward with the complexity of doing dialysis. We started with this girl, and to our surprise, her creatine was 9 and potassium was 7. The nephrologist got a little nervous. He wanted to take her, so I started a central line in her right groin for dialysis. Her father watched with hopefulness and trust, which I couldn’t believe because my interpreter couldn’t explain things perfectly to him. I saved my morphine supply for the little girl so I think she was okay. I knew that if didn’t have the morphine, it would be too painful for me to do this. They took her to dialysis and she came back looking a lot better—a lot better! It was worth saying the next three creatines we checked were 14, 9, and 11. The nephrologists were overwhelmed and didn’t want to check in any more people. They were full.

One of the patients shared something with me. She told me that “no matter what you Americans did in the past, you were here when we needed you. I love you.” It was good to hear that. The 82nd Airborne arrived today and made it a lot easier for the hospital to function. I also think we’ll have food and water for patients and are thankful for all that.

January 20, 2010 5:21 AM

An aftershock hit at 0600 and we all scrambled out of the hotel, tired and delirious. When we returned the chandeliers were still shaking. One reporter freaked out, jumped out a window, and now is being treated for a ankle fracture.

Anil Menon

To read all of Dr. Menon's updates, click here.

To read more of Healthline's Haiti coverage, click here.

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About the Author

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