The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 26, 2010


David Driscoll
(Photo by Elaine Burke)

Dispatches from Haiti:

Carlisle resident volunteers at field hospital Carlisle

Editor’s note: David Driscoll of Fiske Street has been in Port-au-Prince for almost a month, volunteering at a field hospital. His wife, Jo-Ann joined him there last week. David has given the Mosquito permission to quote excerpts from his personal emails and journal postings on Facebook. For clarity’s sake, some abbreviations have been written out.

From emails:

“(This has been like)*MASH* on fast-forward. The University of Miami ProjectMedishare was in country before [the earthquake], doing clinics. After the quake they got some volunteers on the ground and got space in a couple of small hangars at the UN base nearby. The doctors slept on the floor alongside the patients, performed dozens of amputations per day, had no food and little water. Within a week or so, Medishare got some donated event-tents and built up a makeshift field hospital on a piece of land located at the SE corner of the Port-au-Prince airport. They are now the biggest and best trauma hospital in the country, with about 180 patients. The ER sees around 100 or more patients a day.

I was a patient myself [last week] suffering from fatigue and dehydration after almost a month of 19 hour days with no break. (A couple litres of IV fluid and 12 hrs sleep and I’m back in the trenches.)

I have been doing logistics and support functions to help keep the place running. We have been getting excellent support from our US Military (Army/Navy/Air Force) who assist us in their official roles and whose personnel come volunteer at the hospital in their free time. (The all-volunteer military, twice over.)

I can hardly begin to tell you what it has been like here. It’s so heartbreaking at times, but we have a job to do and that does a lot to keep you going. Putting deceased babies in body-bags at 3:00am, hearing the screams of the patients, carrying out severed limbs, etc., is quite hard for non-medical volunteers. Many of the docs and nurses have been quite broken up too.

From Facebook:

Jan 27 - On the ground in Haiti, camped at airport working at U. Miami field hospital. Great job, Miami! Amazing response under combat conditions. Thanks to 82nd Airborne Div. for securing our perimeter. Docs and nurses magnificent, operating on 2 - 4 hours sleep, sleeping in tents, eating MREs. [field rations]. Air operations constant. 300 people here, 2 cold showers, 6 porta-johns (ugh).

Miss the cushy living at HODR (Hands On Disaster Response) bases. New cases still coming in, people hurt in quake who have just made their way to us. Coming in pickup trucks, US Army ambulances, copters. Sending worst cases to US Hospital ship, Dominican Republic, and Miami. Less severe cases to the Dominican unit, the Greeks, and also local hospitals. Five Hands On vols here, looking good.

Jan 28 - Things still hectic here. Wednesday, the security company decamped and we had to cover the gate ourselves. Spent whole day in hot sun practicing my French. Air operations all day, copters from UN, US Navy, USAF. Patients coming in humvees, ambulances. People carrying their kids miles through the hot sun to reach here. Docs and nurses continue to be magnificent, get by on few hrs sleep. Visit to a forward field hospital near palace, food for docs being cooked on charcoal on floor. Bldg half demolished, no tents. Amputations common.

Jan 30 - Still pretty hectic here. Working on all sorts of projects trying to keep the field hospital running and get the docs and nurses what they need. Worked 24 hrs yesterday, then 3 hours in the sack and back to work all day. Got to do some stuff that definitely helped save a few lives, so how could I ever complain.

Feb 5 - USAF handlers brought K9 dogs for a visit 2 days ago. I accompanied them on morale trip through the personnel tents. Got to pet the K9s!

Last night, 2 c-sections in the OR. Some of our volunteers attended – they rigged baby warmers using the self-heaters from MRE meals. Field expedients are not uncommon here. Harrison Ford visits us today. Pretty hot here. Several docs and nurses went down yesterday but we have lots of medical help so they hooked them up with IVs and got them hydrated and all ok now. I walk several miles/day inside perimeter, actually got a blister. Free treatment, though... and house calls!

Feb 9 - Victim found on Day 26, still alive in our hospital. Media circus here today and yesterday. Got to meet CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Still very hot here but miraculously no rain yet. Supposed to get two days off today but you know how that goes. Laundry situation is critical.

I run coffee service for docs in the AM, critical operation, no kidding. Now have a generator to run the coffee pots but no coffee left. Someone please send coffee! Maybe Starbucks or Dunkin’s could donate and send on their corporate jets?

Feb 13 - Our angels at American Airlines came through big time this a.m. At 0600 we had a vanload of sheets for the patients and a month’s worth of coffee for the staff. So, we’re ok on coffee now.

Army guys pulled in at 6 a.m. just behind the AA van. They brought a load of blankets for the patients. Now we have sheets AND blankets. Wow. Picked up a load of valuable tents from Shelter Box (Rotary). Wonder how many will be stolen from our supply tent? Tents are more valuable than gold here. Until hurricane season at least.

[See Shelter Box story on page 4].

Feb 14 - Several babies have been born here. One named after the CMO. [Chief Medical Officer]. Lost a baby late last night, docs and nurses broken up. Dave (3) had to place him in the body bag, he cried for two hours in the command tent. Some pretty sad stuff happening here. Putting body parts and deceased in a box out back. No food left, people eating granola bars and MRE cheese spread (military Cheese Whiz). Hoping for a relief flight tonight.

Feb 15 - Got news that a school full of kids collapsed a couple hours from here. Preparing for mass casualties here, setting up more cots. Trying to confirm what happened.

Feb 16 - Up every day at 0500 to make the coffee. Haven’t seen so many sunrises in decades. Heavy rain the other day brought all the tarantulas out of their holes, caused a near riot among the nurses.

Feb 19 - Critically low on food and water. Borrowed a pallet of water from Army for today. Flight arrives tomorrow w/some supplies and Jo-Ann.

Feb 21 - Jo-Ann arrived Sat eve. I was working on the tarmac at airport and able to meet her at the plane. She was helping unload the cargo on the 737 (no frills on these flights). We have our own tent - pretty cushy camping here, except when it rains.

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