Doc PJ writes from Haiti
Dr. Craig Perrinjaquet, known as Doc PJ, is a Breckenridge physician currently providing medical services in Port-au-Prince, Haiti following that country’s devastating earthquake in January. He sent the following blog entries to Breckenridge Town Councilmember and Summit Daily News columnist Jeffrey Bergeron:
I know you’ve been thinking how scenic it must be to vacation in the tropical paradise of Haiti … The only sight-seeing I’ve done is the daily 5 minute van ride from the Plaza Hotel past rows of United Nations tents and the collapsed Presidential Palace to University Hospital to work and back each day. Others have seen Sean Penn and been asked to join him for a drink. Sen. Kerry’s motorcade drove through the hospital grounds and Michelle Obama’s helicopter buzzed our ER tent.Sorry I haven’t been sending more detailed updates. Internet access is not so easy. After 14 hour night shifts past two nights, I will admit I’m a bit sleepy and need a nap to ramp up again. Last night only one machete wound to the face and head, two gunshot wounds, one to a guy’s left buttocks that remains buried in the recipient’s flesh, the other in and out left chest, collapsing left lung and filling chest with 1/2 liter of blood before he got to surgery. I was holding the guy’s chest tube in my right hand, when I had to drop it to reach behind me to the next cot to slide the umbilical cord encircling a baby’s neck over its head to deliver it, resuscitated the cute little newborn girl, then returned to the chest tube without moving my feet more than a few inches. Rare to have the experience of life coming and going be so literally within hand’s reach.One baby brought in not breathing was not resuscitated, two more were delivered within minutes. The Haitian OB doctors are not showing up to work because they haven’t been paid in months. Can’t say I’d blame them, but women in labor find the doors of the maternity ward closed, so they are coming through our ill-prepared ER tent instead. Luckily babies find there way into life on their own most of the time. I cut out a quarter size chunk of dead skin from a woman’s calf where she had been burnt by a motorcycle exhaust. Many an American bears a minor scar from a similar teenage brush against the hot metal tailpipe, but the hygiene of living in a tent city allowed a small colony of maggots to move to the muscle, their heads (or feet I wasn’t sure) wiggling in the dim light of my headlamp as I inspected the wound. Still no big wave of diarrhea or malaria in local population, though my fellow volunteers are popping Ciprofloxicin like M&M’s to keep working.I don’t have much access to public health discussions except with other volunteers over cornflakes and coffee as we prep for the day. I have tonight off as I swing back to day shift tomorrow, so may have time to do research what is being done on a bigger scale so Haiti may eventually develop some self-sufficiency and make the kind of relief effort I’m doing unnecessary. I hope someone is working on a more sustainable plan than flying American doctors to tents to puck out fly larvae from each infected wound. Even Sisyphus would get tired here.LIFE is Big,pj
I would have to agree that Haiti will not be on my vacation list either. Not a place I would recommend anyone go to relax. INTENSE!!! is the right would … some things are amazing and inspiring and a lot of things are just plane awful. Luckily I’ve avoided the almost daily dirty needle sticks that happen amongst the volunteers like friendly fire in a war. The pace is so harried, the activity so chaotic that used sutures and scalpels get set down and randomly poke into someone else’s finger. I’ve been very careful where I sit. I’ve only had diarrhea once so far. Nipped that in the bud with a whopping dose of antibiotics. Today the ER was finally moved from a cluster of tents in the street where the temperature was in the low 100s back into one of the hospital buildings, so tonight will be the first shift inside. It should be cooler, better lit, more space. Hopefully better organized with more sharps containers. I’ve had the day to rest and am prepping for the first night shift in the new location now. Wish me and the people of Haiti luck. LIFE is Bliss,pj
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