Hospital Replicates Haiti's Worst-Case Scenario Some U.S. doctors who've volunteered in post-earthquake Haiti have said they felt unprepared for the types of injuries and primitive medical settings they encountered there. Children's Hospital in Boston is running a startlingly realistic simulation program to help prepare American health care workers for the scene they'll find.
NPR logo

Hospital Replicates Haiti's Worst-Case Scenario

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Hospital Replicates Haiti's Worst-Case Scenario

Hospital Replicates Haiti's Worst-Case Scenario

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


American health care teams are still traveling to Haiti to help with the wounded, nearly four months after the earthquake. Many medical workers have been startled by the bare-bones clinics and types of injuries they've encountered. So a new program is preparing them for what they may find. Sacha Pfeiffer reports from member station WBUR.

U: Ok. Your blood pressure's going to come up on the monitor.

SACHA PFEIFFER: The room is filled with moaning. The patient cries out in Creole, saying she can't feel her leg. The doctors work as fast as they can, but they're shortstaffed and missing essential supplies.

U: Let's identify the surgeons also.

U: Is there a surgeon here?

U: Is there a surgeon around?

U: No surgeons.

U: Can we get some oxygen? Do we have oxygen?

PFEIFFER: Then things take a turn for the worse.

U: She's vomiting.

PFEIFFER: Dr. Peter Weinstock runs this exercise for Children's Hospital in Boston. He talks with a group, later, about what went right and what went wrong.

D: When you turned to her, she said something that sounded like my tummy. And she was actually saying I'm falling.

D: Oh, I thought she was saying my tummy.

D: Yeah, it sounded that way. And it just raises that issue again to try and use translators as best you can or realize that some of the things you're hearing my sound like certain things...

D: Yeah.

D: But may end up being very different.

PFEIFFER: Tyler Hartman was part of the simulation. He's a pediatrician at Children's and he says the unfamiliar environment was difficult.

D: Not knowing where everything is, not knowing who the people were was extremely stressful, because I'm used to knowing who can do what and relying on those people to do those things. I just felt like I couldn't tee up for a worse, stressful situation.

PFEIFFER: So this new simulation program coaches them to make neck braces out of rolled up towels. To make oxygen masks out of plastic water bottles. To bring headlamps so they can do procedures without having to hold a flashlight. Weinstock says creativity is critical.

D: We work in this environment where we would never fathom reaching for a cardboard box and putting a child in it. One of our goals was to really just open their eyes to that concept - that that may very well be the resources that are available to you.

PFEIFFER: Tyler Hartman, the pediatrician, didn't make that diagnosis at first. And that made him wonder how ready he was for his Haiti trip.

D: I'm a little bit more nervous, I think, than I was before. But, yeah, I think I'm still pretty nervous about going down there. But, yeah, I feel a little bit better about it.

PFEIFFER: For NPR News, I'm Sacha Pfeiffer in Boston.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.