Public Health

Amid Chaos And Casualties, U.S. Opens Clinic In Haiti

The U.S. government's first emergency medical unit to set up shop inside Port-au-Prince is finally running, a week after the massive earthquake that brought chaos to the Haitian capital.

  • The first U.S. medical base to be established in Haiti was opened on Monday by the Massachusetts 1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Here, team leader Patrick Kadilak prepares to lead personnel from the airport to downtown Port-au-Prince.
    Hide caption
    The first U.S. medical base to be established in Haiti was opened on Monday by the Massachusetts 1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Here, team leader Patrick Kadilak prepares to lead personnel from the airport to downtown Port-au-Prince.
    All photos by John W. Poole/NPR
  • Logistics specialists load pallets for the U.S. IMSuRT (International Medical Surgical Response Team) at the airport in Port-au-Prince to send downtown to the medical clinic.
    Hide caption
    Logistics specialists load pallets for the U.S. IMSuRT (International Medical Surgical Response Team) at the airport in Port-au-Prince to send downtown to the medical clinic.
  • Registered nurse Kristen Wilson helps load cases of water onto the transport vehicle.
    Hide caption
    Registered nurse Kristen Wilson helps load cases of water onto the transport vehicle.
  • The IMSuRT team gets ready to head downtown. The medical clinic is set up in a schoolyard next to a soccer field where hundreds of Haitians are camped out.
    Hide caption
    The IMSuRT team gets ready to head downtown. The medical clinic is set up in a schoolyard next to a soccer field where hundreds of Haitians are camped out.
  • The IMSuRT convoy of four trucks arrives in downtown Port-au-Prince.
    Hide caption
    The IMSuRT convoy of four trucks arrives in downtown Port-au-Prince.
  • Members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division provide security for the clinic around the clock.
    Hide caption
    Members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division provide security for the clinic around the clock.
  • A patient sleeps in one of the medical tents. Thousands of people are waiting outside the clinic for medical and surgical treatment.
    Hide caption
    A patient sleeps in one of the medical tents. Thousands of people are waiting outside the clinic for medical and surgical treatment.
  • A young girl receives water and care at the clinic.
    Hide caption
    A young girl receives water and care at the clinic.
  • Dr. Thea James of the Massachusetts 1 DMAT examines X-rays of a patient with two broken legs and an injured pelvis. Many patients have broken bones that have not been repaired for over a week, complicating the work of the doctors.
    Hide caption
    Dr. Thea James of the Massachusetts 1 DMAT examines X-rays of a patient with two broken legs and an injured pelvis. Many patients have broken bones that have not been repaired for over a week, complicating the work of the doctors.

1 of 9

View slideshow i

NPR reporter Joanne Silberner and mulitmedia journalist John Poole are with the team, which established makeshift facilities in a technical school, partially destroyed by the quake. Watch the slideshow for more.

The health care workers faced a challenging journey. After arriving by air late Sunday, the team stayed at the U.S. Embassy then headed back Monday morning to the airport, where they were stuck most of the day. At 5 p.m., a driver with one part of the group refused to embark on the convoy into the city because his shift was ending.

By Tuesday, health workers in three emergency rooms and two operating rooms were seeing patients. Most of the patients have traumatic injuries, such as broken bones and burns. But the medical team also treated some dehydrated infants.

Estimates are difficult to make in the chaos. But thousands of refugees appear to be outside the compound hoping to eventually receive care.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.