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In a nightclub serving as a makeshift clinic, Dr. Patricia Jorquera tended to dehydrated, malnourished newborns orphaned by the earthquake and adults pulled from the rubble with lacerations and deep, infected wounds.
A 12-year-old girl she examined was physically unharmed but traumatized from witnessing her parents perish in the earthquake. The child, now the sole provider and caretaker for her 4-year-old sister, was inconsolable.
“The saddest part wasn’t what I saw, it was the stories I heard,” said Dr. Jorquera, a pediatrician from Connecticut who spent seven days working with a team of medical volunteers in Carrefour, a suburb of Port-Au-Prince. Help AmeriCares Save Lives in Haiti »
Dr. Jorquera’s group was one of more than 60 medical teams treating survivors with medicines and supplies donated by the AmeriCares Medical Outreach Program in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The program provided volunteer medical professionals from all over the United States with nearly $5 million worth of antibiotics, wound care supplies, orthopedic products and other critically needed medical aid in the first six weeks following the earthquake.
Dr. Betsy Fine, a family physician from Tacoma, Washington, volunteering with a team of paramedics from New York City, said hand-carrying $60,000 worth of medicines and supplies from AmeriCares allowed her team to begin treating survivors as soon as they landed in Port-Au-Prince.
“We were equipped and ready to go the moment we arrived,” Dr. Fine said. “Some of the other medical teams had to wait for their supplies.”
Her team, NYC Medics, got to work right away, searching refugee camps for those in need of medical care. They made splints for survivors with broken bones and dispensed medicines from AmeriCares for patients with diabetes and high blood pressure.
Dr. Emily Rothman, a physician from New Mexico, used antibiotics from AmeriCares to treat a 13-month-old infant with pneumonia. The baby girl had a fever of 104 degrees for several days, but her mother did not take her to the hospital because she could not afford the fees.
Some of the earthquake survivors the medical volunteers examined were initially treated at hospitals for infected wounds and fractures, but had received no follow-up care.
“A lot of the patients treated at the hospital were sent home without any antibiotics because the medical staff didn’t have any to give them,” Dr. Fine said.
Many volunteer doctors working in Haiti were pleasantly surprised by how quickly survivors’ wounds healed. Dr. Jorquera, the pediatrician from Connecticut, was astonished at the speed that one woman with an infected leg, red and swollen from the knee down, began to heal.
“With the antibiotics we gave her there was dramatic improvement in 24 hours,” Dr. Jorquera said. “The internal wounds, I think, are going to be harder to heal.”