PENN MEDICINE has established a mission in Haiti. Working though the organization Partners in Health (PIH) an organization that has a strong, ongoing presence in that country, the first team from PENN MEDICINE is already in Haiti. Members of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care are part of that team which consists of orthopedic surgeons, trauma surgeons, intensivists, and nurses with experience in critical care, post anesthesia care, and operating room care. The Team Leader, Michael Ashburn, M.D., MPH, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, sent us the following e-mail dated January 25, 2010, 20:36
We are now safe and sound in Port au Prince. We are in a secure tent city. There is water here, and we ate well on the plane. We gave our remaining food away to Haitians and elected to survive on Power bars until we reach the hospital sometime tomorrow.
The drive in from the airport was interesting. Only a few lights were on due to limited power (mainly from generators). People were out everywhere on the streets as they are afraid to sleep in their homes. Some food vendors were out, especially near the airport. There is tight security near the UN headquarters which is now beside the airport.
Devastation is everywhere. While some buildings are standing, every block has damaged houses, some are just piles of rubble.
The Haitian people we have met are very grateful and are gentle, polite people. I find this amazing considering the state of life they find themselves in.
All of our gear is still with us. We will sleep with the important gear, and get up early to make sure another team is not tempted. No worries; the drugs are under the watchful eyes of the ladies and the ortho supplies are guarded by the ortho docs. They now snarl at anyone who walks by their tent. Ha!
There are teams from several other institutions here; most of them are working in the city. They report improving supplies, but increasing frustration over poor collaboration between groups as well as critical needs such as no working autoclave in the Port au Prince major hospital. They say that they still have several hundred patients with ortho injuries, such as open fractures, waiting for surgery.
The ride to the hospital where we will work is expected to take 4 hours due to the road conditions. We do not have a departure time but are hopeful it will be fairly early to allow us to start working tomorrow and to avoid travel in the heat of the day.
DSS: I made a few light edits – added some verbs to convert phrases to sentences and clarified some of the abbreviations; otherwise this e-mail is as Dr. Ashburn sent it.