Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teachers to the Rescue

Hello everyone,

Meaghan and I are alive and healthy. We've been working with 4 other Union School teachers and organizing first aid, triage, and everything else for at least 12 hours a day (with some all nighters). Along the way, we picked up drivers, first responders, nurses, and even doctors. Oddly enough, we're organized and are operating a unit that has gained much respect at the hospitals. We've seen and had to do things that are hardly imaginable, but we're starting to see some progress.

The first day, within 15 minutes of the earthquake, we ran next door to the Canadian/France Red Cross. They were so stunned, that it was actually Meaghan that initiated the first night's triage. We brought people in to the compound and did what we could to help. That night, Meaghan gave mouth to mouth to a woman, but was unable to resuscitate her. It was a bit shocking, but within hours, we were seeing dozens of dead bodies (since then we've pretty well been surrounded by hundreds and thousands of dead). So many people are still trapped under rubble. Anyway, the earthquake happened around 5 o'clock, and by 11, most of the people at the Red Cross were stabilized. Independently, the five of us decided to go into the ravines and slums. We brought along a man that could suture, and got to work. We found a soccer field with about a thousand people, many of whom were injured. We didn't have a table, any lighting, or anything else. We just had a bunch of supplies, a few headlamps, 5 teachers with little to no experience in First Aid, and an experienced first aid responder (later another man joined us).

Over the night and into the morning, we learned how to clean wounds, many of which were very serious, like stress amputations. We stabilized that locations, and moved to another locations at 4 am until 7:30. It was complete chaos, but we helped a lot of people. We hitched a ride back home, and had a few hours sleep. By noon, we were ready to go again. We went to the Red Cross. That location is not equipped for disaster, so we were the team. They gave us pretty much all of their medical supplies, a driver, and access to a truck.. We went to the Hopital Communautaire de Haiti. We worked into the evening, with headlamps (because even the hospitals didn't have electricity). We soon realized that several of us were completely willing to work on the worst wounds, and do things that are hardly describable. That night, we couldn't get back home, but a friends' grandmother brought us in and fed us. The next morning, we went to the biggest hospital in Port-au-Prince. On the way, we saw buildings and dead people in piles everywhere. Within a few days, the smell was atrocious. We're used to it now.

I'm trying to write, but what we've seen, and what we've done is indescribable. I pretty well did surgery 12 hours a day for a few days, and watched many of my patients (and friends) die. There were no doctors for the first 4 days. 4 days!!! There were very few supplies, but we managed. Already, I've developed some incredible relationships with those I've been taking care of. Some of the locals, friends and family of victims have been so helpful, kind, and patient. They call me Dr. Bruno, even after I explain that I'm just a teacher, and that any of them can do the same thing. If it makes them feel better to think I'm a doctor, then be it.

Because of the tireless work we've been doing, we are listed as �the teachers� along with Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Red Cross, at the crisis response meetings. They realized that while NGOs and international aid were assessing the situation for days before coming to ground zero, 5 of us were there within minutes, and haven't let up. They decided to provide us with �anything we want, no questions asked,� which is incredible considering the supply shortage. Red Cross and World Vision have given us so much support too. Red Cross gives us whatever they have, and much encouragement. We were worried about our security, so now we sleep at Red Cross, next door.

There are probably 100s of thousands dead, and many of those that are alive are just starting to received aid. We're surrounded by amputees, so although the buildings can be rebuilt, the scars will be visible for generations. Thousands, if not nearly a million people, haven't eaten in days, and hungry people can get pretty desperate. I wish I could send you letter telling you that everything is fine, but it's not. Don't worry about us; we'll do what we need to do, and it'll be worth it. We'll be mindful about safety, and I'll try to keep you updated. This is just a letter to friends and family. My thoughts are a bit scattered, considering the circumstances, so I would prefer if this was not posted on the media co-op website. I'll try to write something better later. Also, I'll try to write to many of you personally. Because my access to internet is so limited, and facebook isn't working for me, please forward this to friends and family.

With love,


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