Friday, December 31, 2010

Grief on the Side of a Haitian Road

Before I left for Haiti I began to pray that God would cross my path with one special person there who I could really help or have an opportunity to make a difference in their life. It was a reality, that daily that would happen, since I'd be working on a medical mobile clinic, going to places where the people may have NEVER had medical care ever before, or going to a tent city where the people lived in total filth and squalor, and needed hope. I just wanted my time there to really matter and for God to use me in big ways. This trip was something I have wanted to do for a very long time.

While I was there, on day 11, while finishing up a quick breakfast at the Samaritan's Purse base, waiting for our daily devotion time, we got word that there was a horrible accident up the road. There is no 9-1-1 there, our medical team of 5 nurses and a paramedic were the only responders. We grabbed our very limited medical supplies (2 small emergency kits and a bucket of IV solutions) and jumped in vehicles to go to the accident. I was thinking it would be two cars and several people. When we got there, my heart dropped. I immediately felt a sense of panic and shock spill over me. Two large transport trucks crashed head on, at a high rate of speed. People in Haiti cram into them and ride on top. There were bodies everywhere. There were 60 people involved and 5 of us to help them.

We all split up and ran, I ran to the back of one bus and there were bodies laying all over the road. Haitians were screaming, crying, moaning in pain. My brain couldn't even comprehend the scene. For some reason, I felt pulled to run to the weeds on the side of the road, stepping over bodies as I ran. My eyes fell to a small child, about 3 years old. She was unconscious but still breathing. Her chest was crushed on the left and she had a badly broken leg in several places. People started bringing me bodies of others, a young man who was moaning and holding his belly, a young girl who had a huge wide open gash above her eyebrow that was bleeding heavily. I had one of the medical kits so I ripped it open and held a gauze over her eye, while trying to comfort the others who were brought to me. The whole time I kept saying quietly, "Help me Jesus.....help me Jesus" I had no medical supplies that were of use really, that was so frustrating. Meanwhile, my other medical friends were at other areas of the accident doing what they could. The driver of one bus was killed immediately, his passenger was trapped in the vehicle with his leg nearly ripped off. My brave friend, Miriam crawled inside the vehicle and used a belt to tourniquet his leg and started an IV on him. He was still alert and oriented. She was so brave! My other nurse friend on the trip, had to climb into the back of one of the trucks to see if there were any people that were still alive. She marked the dead with a sharpee marker.

Meanwhile, I got an IV started in my little 3 year old. There wasn't much I could do, with the limited supplies I had, but I just couldn't leave her....I knew in my head, I could maybe be helping someone, but I just felt drawn to be right there, at her side, praying over her, doing what I could. I continued to help those around me, but we just didn't have supplies to do much.

I pray I never forget her little face. Her hair was in little braids all over, she was beautiful and had long eyelashes. She had polka dot shorts and little orange plastic shoes. I had no idea who was with her on that bus. She was all alone in the weeds, like she had been thrown there.

Other Samaritan's Purse workers, though they had no medical skills, heard of of the magnitude of the crash and brought vehicles up to the road from the base. We began to load patients into the trucks to transport them to the tent hospital about 20 minutes away. I had to choose who of all my "patients" would go. I pointed to the ones I thought were critical, the young girl with the deep gash above her eye, a man whose ankle was completely twisted and bleeding heavily, the young man with severe abdominal pain, and another young girl with belly pain. When we had them loaded, I picked up my little 3 year old girl in my arms, got in the front seat of the truck and told Brian (a S. Purse worker who would drive us) to GO!!!! I held her in my arms, tried to keep her IV intact (I had no tape so I had to hold it in place), and tried to be as gentle as I could. I knew her best chance was to get her to a place that had more supplies.

Tears began to stream down my face, I just could not believe what was happening and what I had just been a part of. Being a nurse, I've of course seen some things, but never on this scale, and not having medical supplies to help was very frustrating. I prayed the whole way to the tent hospital, and whispered to her that Jesus loved her and that everything would be okay. I begged God to not let her die in my arms. Several times I thought she did.

Meanwhile, I was aware of all of the bloody, hurting people in the vehicle. I reached my hand back to comfort the girl, who we placed in the back seat, she seemed to quietly be praying, and I heard her moaning and I knew she had internal injuries.

We pulled up to the Dr.s Without Borders tent hospital and I told Brian I was running with my 3 year old and to get help to unload the others. I looked him in the eye and yelled, "DO NOT LEAVE ME HERE ALONE" I didn't know where we were, I had no phone, no money, no way of knowing how to get back to our base. It was a strange thing to say, but I felt afraid and didn't want him to leave me. I ran with my 3 year old in my arms, I had no idea where to go with her, but people saw us and started pointing. I ran to where they pointed and found a room with several exam tables. It seemed to be a triage room of some sort. Other vehicles started pulling up from our base, loaded with patients, so suddenly, the "hospital" became overwhelmed. They clearly could not handle this many patients, who were so critical.

I laid my girl on a table and her IV fell out. I ran to a room next to where I was, somehow, I just had instinct that this room was a supply room. I found IVs, and grabbed some and ran back to her and started two. I had to hang her IV bags on the window using gauze as a tie, they had no IV poles or hooks. It is amazing to me, looking back, how God would lead me right to the things I needed. This hospital had very basic supplies, no x-ray ability, and I knew very quickly this wasn't going to be a good outcome. A Haitian Dr. of some sort, came up to where I was and in broken English asked what happened. I started spitting out the things I knew she needed, a chest tube (they didn't have one), blood products (didn't have any) and other things. He tried to straighten her broken femur and used a piece of cardboard to hold in in place, I taped it while he held it. We got oxygen on her and checked her Hemoglobin with a rapid finger prick test, it was 4 (should be 12) I knew she was bleeding internally and it would be a miracle if she lived. I stayed by her side for an hour, doing what I could, praying, whispering in her ear that Jesus loved her. When I put a tube down her nose into her stomach, all that came out was blood. They had no suction, so I used a syringe to pull the contents out. I had to use a bulb syringe (like you use for babies when they have snotty noses) to keep the blood out of her mouth and nose. I felt like I was in a bad movie, with the limited supplies we had and seeing all the bodies all around me, and they just kept coming and coming.

An hour or so after arriving, a Dr. walked by. I again, had some inner "knowing" that he was important and could help us. I grabbed his arm, and he saw the little girl. I pointed to her chest and tried to quickly explain her injuries. He was French yet understood and told me, "Bring her quickly!" I found out later, he was the "Trauma Dr." and he had been in the operating area of the tent hospital helping the passenger who had his leg nearly ripped off, and other patients that we transported there. I picked her up from the table, grabbed her IV bags, and ran after him. We went into the operating/trauma area, and again, I felt shock and panic flood over me. There were bodies everywhere, it looked like a war scene. A nurse there was yelling directions and orders, there was chaos everywhere. He pointed to a table and I laid her on it. She moaned once in awhile, so I knew she felt pain, but mainly, she continued to be unconscious. I saw the Haitian Dr. that had worked with her earlier. They started to look her over and I knew I needed to go and leave her. Tears dripped down my face as I walked away from her. I grabbed the white jacket of the Haitian Dr. and he looked at me for a brief second and we grabbed hands. It was like I was saying to him, "Take care of her" and he somehow knew. He gave me a supportive look and squeezed my hand. I'll never forget that.

I walked out dazed and feeling completely overwhelmed with emotions. I found Brian outside the hospital with my other medical friends who all had their own stories to tell. The hospital had called in all of their staff to assist with the influx of patients we had brought them, so we knew we should get out of the way and let them work.

I found out a few hours later, that my little, sweet precious girl, died. I'll never know her name. I found out her mother died too, the man whose leg was nearly taken off, and 17 others.

As hard as it was, I feel God led me to her, so she wouldn't die alone in the weeds. Alone on the side of the road. It has taken me 5 months to be able to type out this post. I think of her every single day, and have had hard days trying to get memories out of my mind. I'm finally in a place where I can think of that day and her, without crying and feeling sick. I don't want to forget her face, so now I force myself to recall every detail of her face. I want people to know the trials that Haitians deal with on a daily basis. No real medical care, dangerous roads with no speed limits, and unsafe transportation.

This is already long, so I'll end for now. I have one more story of God bringing me a special person, sort of redeeming the trip for me. God let me end this trip of a lifetime on a good note. Stay tuned and come back for my next story.....a story of God bringing hope to a desperate man, and of a friendship that will now last forever.

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