Thursday, February 18, 2010

Working Triage in Port-au-Prince

Police Department a Makeshift Hospital

Merari R. Miller with infant patient

Monetary Relief for Haiti is Great, But Supplies are Needed Right Now

By Skip Sheffield

“What we need most is tents and tarps,” pleads Merari Rodriguez Miller. “Everything is getting wet and falling apart. We have given the people medical attention, food and hope, but if we don’t get supplies to them, we’ll be back where we started- and Haiti’s rainy season starts in March.”
Miller is a volunteer for Whole Earth Ministries, located at Victory Christian Center in Boca Raton, Florida. Miller was invited by mission organizer Wendy Bryant to fly to Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake stuck on Jan. 12, 2010. She and a group of eight doctors and nurses stayed five days, then they returned for a week in early February.
“TV has done as best they can with their cameras, but you have to be there in person to understand the endless destruction and suffering,” she says. “Because buildings are still in danger of collapse, people sleep outside. When we arrived they had already been making tents out of sheets, wood and sticks. When it rains they are completely exposed. We heard grown men wailing and crying when it began raining one morning around 3:30. If these people can’t stay dry, they will get sick all over again.”
The destruction of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, is so extensive virtually the entire superstructure will have to be rebuilt. The sewer system, which was never completely adequate, was destroyed.
“The people have to use the streets as their bathroom,” Miller explains. “Many people are sick with diarrhea and vomiting. It all mixes in the streets and people with wounds are infected.”
Getting supplies to Haiti is no easy task. Miller’s group was able to fly into the capital in a small chartered plane. The airport is too damaged for larger planes to safely land.
“I first went there by myself three days after the earthquake,” recounts Wendy Bryant. “I flew into the Dominican Republic and got a ride into Port-au-Prince with some Dominicans. They had been on the job since the day after the earthquake. I met the police chief, and he gave us permission to set up our clinic at police headquarters. The police have been a great help to us.”
Not only is there danger of disease, there is the ever-present threat of violence from desperate, hungry people.
“The police have become part of our family, part of our team” says Miller. “They are like our bodyguards. They sleep alongside us.”
Although the police station, CIMO, is damaged, the structure is stable enough that the medical team has been able to set up an operating room, pediatric ward and OBY clinic inside. Triage, which is like a makeshift emergency room, is performed outside, in front of the station.
While Miller has worked in the medical field for 20 years, it has been as an administrator. In Port-au-Prince she got a crash course in triage from the doctors and registered nurses.
“Merari learned so fast and did such a wonderful job, she is looked at as a nurse by everyone,” says Bryant. “When you are trying to save lives you have to be fearless.”
Babies have been born, wounded operated upon and sick have been healed, all under the most primitive of conditions. It is the hope of Bryant, Miller and volunteers like them that the millions of dollars that have been pledged to Haitian relief can be applied to tangible things on the island nation.
We are not asking for money,” says Bryant. “Around a half-billion dollars has already been given. What Haiti needs most right now is supplies: food, medicine, shelter. The rebuilding will take years.”
For more information, call Wendy Bryant at 601-672-0340 or e-mail or call Merari Miller at 561-574-4879 or e-mail

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