Friday, December 10, 2010

Friends Finds a New Friend: Intern Jillian Myers joins the Friends of HAS Haiti!

First, a little background on the program I am working on at Chatham University:

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) major at any accreditd university is required to master generalist practice. The Council on Social Work Education is Chatham's accrediting body, and insists that students who graduate from the university be able to demonstrate an ability to work in the field, act to professional standards, and really know what it means to be a social worker. Part of this process is completing some field work, including a 12-credit, 500 hour field placement that is completed over the course of a BSW's fourth year in college. This field placement allows students to complete the program at an accelerated rate, chiseling off as much as a year's worth of university study, while expanding that student's range of experience.

My long-term goal is to work in direct practice, that is, working directly with individuals, rather than in a more community-oriented setting. I am interested in gender equality, and would love someday to act as a therapist.

Why the Friends?

Like many Americans, the need in Haiti was brought dramatically to my attention with the earthquake of this past January. However, working with the Friends has been my more formal introduction to Haiti and Haitian issues, and I am learning a lot. I have long held great interest in helping others, especially those in great need. Haiti needs help, and I am so happy to be on board!
My work so far...

I feel like I have already done so much in my two weeks here! My time thus far has been spent researching possible energy sources that might be used at HAS, including solar ovens. I'm also researching water filtration systems and humanure, or the compost that is created from human waste matter. In addition, I'm helping find new members for the Friends' charity team for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and brainstorming new ideas for possible projects in collaboration with organizations like Chatham.

Oh! And, this Saturday, I will be selling Haitian crafts and metal pieces at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre, from 11 am to 5 pm, and will be doing the same on Tuesday the 14th at Chatham's library lobby from 10 am to 3 pm. Please come out and join us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Update: HTRIP & Hurricanes

For HAS' service area in the upper communes of the Artibonite Valley, hurricanes most often mean a lot of rain, and this was indeed the case with Tomas, which hit Haiti last weekend. Although Dechapelles did not face the same high winds and destructive storm surge as did the South, our region sustained heavy rainfall, which threatens infrastructure, the environment, and public health. In brief, this kind of heavy rain can cause flash flooding that washes out roads and overburdens dams; it washes barren hillsides down to bedrock, and there have been speculations (as of this entry unsubstantiated, fortunately), that the overflowing of public water sources could prompt a worsening of the recent cholera outbreak.

The mountainous areas where HTRIP is working are particularly susceptible to the immediate and long-term effects of heavy rainfall. With Haiti's current environmental situation at crisis point (98% deforested), there is little forest cover to encourage seepage into steep, denuded hillsides, and valuable topsoil is washed into ravines on its way to the Artibonite River and, eventually, the Caribbean. Our organization’s mission is to plant trees to improve agricultural practices and livelihoods in the mountain communities in HAS' catchment area while fighting environmental degradation. Tree roots are deeper and more extensive than those of annual crops like maize and sorghum, so they are an excellent vehicle for soil retention and rainwater absorption—although HTRIP has previously collaborated on larger anti-erosion projects like the water catchment basins and "ravine correction" walls constructed last summer, planting trees is one of the most basic watershed management strategies available to fight the effects of the heavy rain that comes with a hurricane... and we and our partner communities do a lot of it. A storm like Tomas, simply put, reaffirms the importance of the work we do.

HTRIP's Approach to Reforestation in Haiti

By Dan Langfitt & Ruth Portnoff

Nowhere is the connection between environmental degradation and chronic poverty more clear than in Haiti: centuries of exploitation and political and economic instability transformed the sixteenth-century's "Pearl of the Antilles" into the crumpled landscape of barren mountainsides where families struggle to eke out a living today. Just as overwhelming deforestation led to the soil deterioration that keeps so many Haitians in extreme poverty, impoverished Haitians often have no choice but to cut down trees for wood to cook their food, fueling a cycle of poverty and environmental degradation that is very difficult to break.

Reforestation belongs in any integrated development approach for Haiti. Simply repopulating forests that once existed (or survive only as remnants) would be an enormous boon to Haiti's primarily agricultural economy, restoring soil, increasing water infiltration, and reducing the damage of heavy rains to crop fields. The problem is developing a reforestation approach that can work in Haiti's particular socioeconomic situation. Even a balanced reforestation effort that plans a diversity of native tree species coupled with proper erosion control and watershed management techniques risks failure when desperate locals pasture theirgoats on fields of tree seedlings or cut down young trees for charcoal. Moreover, reforestation can be controversial: if planting trees on potential farmland in a country that suffers such acute malnutrition gives policy-makers qualms, it certainly proves a difficult case to make to the starving people themselves. For all of these reasons, HTRIP has chosen to embrace agroforestry, a land use system that mixes trees with crops for increased productivity and biodiversity.

Specifically, trees have extensive root systems that protect crops from Haiti's tempestuous rainy season. As a mountain farmer's tree plot matures, it becomes unable to sustain certain kinds of crops (like corn and millet), but HTRIP hopes to introduce higher-value shade crops (like yams and even coffee) as this happens. Meanwhile, fast-growing trees can be harvested for timber products that can dramatically increase family income (a single tree may be worth more than US $125, no small figure for a household living on $1/day). If farmers understand that trees are valuable from the beginning (routine pruning can yield substantial cooking fuel starting in the third year), they will keep the trees and "reforestation" will be successfulthanks to the benefits the farmer derives from practicing agroforestry. In HTRIPs model, agroforestry and reforestation are complementary goals.

Since HTRIP has only been working in the mountains of the Artibonite Valley since 2006(currently with forty-two communities and over two thousand farmers, each of whom boasts a tree plot of fifty to one hundred trees), the parcels planted with its program are not yet mature. When they are, HTRIP will be there to see that the trees are harvested and replanted sustainably, and then help market the timber products these parcels yield to ensure that the farmer gets the greatest possible value for his or her lumber.

We have found that some of the most enthusiastic community members working with HTRIP are often the youngest--these boys understand that the economic benefits this mahogany tree will eventually bring will have an impact on their generation.

Development organizations have planted hundreds of millions of trees in Haiti during the past fifty years, and yet over all tree cover still continues to decline (from about 10% in 1960 to less than 1% today). So far, reforestation efforts in Haiti have not overcome the obstacles that the country's society, environment, and history present. HTRIP approaches these challenges by using an agroforestry model designed to reduce poverty and malnutrition, and educate both literate and non-reading Haitians about the economic and environmental value of planting and protecting their trees.* The fact that they can help reforest Haiti in the process is the icing on the cake!

*P.S. HTRIP is unites agricultural education with literacy training--hitting two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cholera in Haiti: A Message from Ian Rawson

"Last evening, the Center for Disease Control confirmed that the cases of diarrheal illness that HAS Haiti and other hospitals in the Artibonite region have been receiving have been identified as Cholera.

"HAS has instituted the World Health Organization Cholera treatment protocol, and redesigned the hospital's patient flow to keep the cholera patients in a separate area.

"All HAS staff have been provided with training on cholera and its effects, and its treatment.

"HAS remains in close contact with the CDC, whose efforts are now focused on localizing the source of the disease. A CDC team was at the hospital last night to study maps of the region and to review our patient data, especially the localities where the patients have been living during the previous week.

"Most patients appear to have contracted the disease from one or several sites at some distance from the hospital. We have received very few patients from the immediate area.

"Under the able direction of our newly-arived Medical Director, Dr. Silvia Ernst (who was formerly at the Schweitzer hospital in Lambarene), HAS has been able to manage the patient flow without undue stress. All of the staff have served long hours with great professionalism.
To a great extent, cholera is a nursing disease, requiring the establishment and maintenance of IV lines, education to the patients' families to remain hydrated, and the administration of antibiotics as appropriate. Most patients so far have been able to recuperate and return home within several days."

Ian Grant Rawson

Top Image: Dieu Nalio Chery/AP: "Cholera victims in Haiti receive treatment at the St. Nicholas hospital in Saint Marc, Haiti." Source: NPR.ORG
Bottom Image: Source:

Media Links:
Medcins Sans Frontiers

Friday, October 8, 2010

Courage for the Disabled at HAS Haiti: An audio slide show by Martha Rial

Click the image above to view the audio slideshow!
(FYI::Captions for the images are available by clicking on the word "captions"
in the lower right hand corner of the view box!)

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist, Martha Rial, journeyed to Haiti in the summer of 2010 to photograph our work at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. This is the first of two audio slide shows that she compiled about two very exciting collaborations that are taking place at the hospital, one with the United Nations, and another with Hanger Orthopedic Group.

This particular video shows images of Haitians who have suffered the loss of a limb, whether as a result of the January 2010 earthquake, motor vehicle accident or illness. Hanger Orthopedic Group is working in collaboration with HAS's revolutionary rehabilitation program to fulfill two major needs in Haiti that were greatly escalated since the earthquake: jobs for unemployed or internally displaced Haitians, and new artificial limbs for amputees.

The young man whose voice is heard in the background of this video is singing a rap song that he wrote called "Kouraj pou handicape," or "Courage for the disabled."

Even before January's devastating earthquake, living with disability in Haiti was often synonymous with a loss of livelihood. Haitians with disabilities often live isolated existences, shut away from much of the outside world, and heavily reliant on friends and family to provide for them. For years now, HAS Haiti and the "Friends" have been trying to change this situation, by integrating rehabilitation services into their vision for improved health care in Haiti.

This new effort in collaboration with Hanger Group, however, brings wholly new meaning to the phrase, "Courage for the disabled." A picture, of course, is worth a thousand words.

Click here or on the photo above to view the audio slideshow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

H'Art Pictures Preview!

Check out some of the first photos from last Friday's ultra-successful H'Art & Soul of Haiti Gala! Thanks for all of you who supported this effort!

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Patients from the Hanger Clinic in Deschapelles, Haiti are the definition of resilience"

The following is a guest blog entry written by HVO Volunteer and physical therapist, Karen Helfrich, who just returned from a session at Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti and the new Hanger Clinic in Deschapelles.

Patients from the Hanger Clinic in Deschapelles, Haiti are the definition of resilience. Each person is there because somehow during the course of their life each one has lost part of a limb or multiple limbs from their body. Coming to the Hanger Clinic is a new beginning for each person. At the Clinic, the patients receive a new prosthetic limb of what they previously lost. Each patient has a story to tell, and each has left an impression on me that I will never forget.

We had a young woman come walking into the clinic on her knees with flip-flops protecting her knees from the ground. At the age of five she lost part of both of her legs because of an infection. Now, sixteen years later, she is standing up tall and walking. On the first day that she got her new legs, she spent time learning how to walk again on the parallel bars. Over a period of time, with much hard work and sweat, she said goodbye to those parallel bars and is now able to walk without any assistance. Every day she would come into the clinic and give me a hug around my waist because it was as high as she could reach. I had to return to the United States before she was finished with her therapy, but I hope that some day I can return to Haiti and get a hug from her as she is standing tall.

We had a five-year-old girl who brought laughter and excitement into the clinic. She too had lost one of her legs. She was not able to wear her new prosthetic leg yet, but would walk all around the clinic with her forearm crutches and her one leg. Her favorite pastime while at the clinic was to play soccer with anyone she could rope into it by batting her pretty little eyes, and smiling wide.

The patients all had one thing in common: the loss of a limb. This helped unite them.

As new patients were admitted, and other patients got ready to graduate from therapy, they each helped teach each other what they had previously learned in therapy. As patients were waiting for their therapy time, they wouldn't sit in the halls, but would rather be up walking around, practicing the stairs, and walking on the terrain.

They are all so strong. I worked for a week and a half straight before I had a patient tell me that they were tired and needed to rest. I must admit I was relieved when I heard this because I wasn't sure if I could continue much longer with the activity we were doing, myself!

I have learned so much from my patients by their courage, strength and resilience.

To see more of Karen's photos from her time in Haiti, visit our RTTP Flickr album here.

For more information about the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program, visit the Friends' Projects page here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Way to go, Denise!

Denise English accepts the first Humanitarian Award from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, presented by Dr. Cliff Brubaker (left), dean of the school, and Dr. Kevin Conley, president ofthe SHRS Alumni Society.

Our very own Denise English was honored this week by her alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. Denise was awarded the Humanitarian Award from the University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) on the occasion of the school’s 40th anniversary.

Denise was the first alumna to receive this honor, which was created “to recognize those who are respected by their peers, recognized as leading experts, and are devoted to the promotion of human welfare.

According to Dr. Clifford E. Brubaker, professor and dean, SHRS, “Mrs. English has gone beyond the call of duty in her humanitarian efforts related to providing rehabilitation training and therapies to the people of Haiti. Her work has spanned more than two decades and we are very proud of her dedication and commitment to others. We boldly count her among our most deserving alumni award recipients.”

The following statement was issued by the University of Pittsburgh on June 16th:

A 1973 graduate of SHRS’s Department of Physical Therapy, English has been the driving force behind the development of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, Haiti. Having worked on development projects in that country since 1988, English realized the need for training programs that would develop local human resources and enable Haitian rehabilitation workers to serve in their communities. Once envisioned, she, along with a team of volunteer rehabilitation educators and clinicians from U.S. and Canadian universities, set about developing the curriculum and recruiting teachers. English and another instructor were providing student training in Haiti when the devastating earthquake rocked the island in January 2010. They continued the training and demonstrated hands-on skills as they assisted patients pouring into the area for care.

English is a volunteer professional with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO), Haiti site, where she serves as program director. She also serves as co-coordinator on their Rehabilitation Curriculum Committee, helping to develop a rehabilitation aide curriculum that can be implemented in other underserved areas. English continues to provide PT services in the Pittsburgh area and is actively involved in the American Physical Therapy Association’s Health Policy Administration Section and the Cross Cultural and International Special Interest Group. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association (PPTA), the Haiti Solidarity Group of the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, and Health Volunteers Overseas/Physical Therapy Overseas, a board member of Friends of HAS Haiti, and is active in other Haiti-related organizations.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time Flies!

Dear Readers,

If you're still around, thanks for sticking with us! The past few months have been very busy for the Friends of HAS, as we are still adjusting to the aftermath of the earthquake in January. The earthquake, though tragic, has brought about a good deal of positive change at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, including new programs in collaboration with national and international organizations. Here are a few updates on our work in Haiti and in the US.

One of these programs is a community development project, which is a collaborative effort between HAS Haiti and the United Nations. This project aims to employ many of the internally displaced Haitians in the Artibonite Valley through providing crucial improvements to the communities in this region. This includes everything from road improvements to a community mural project. You can follow this project's progress at their blog here, or of course, you can expect updates on the Friends' blog.

Another such project instituted in the past few months is the creation of a long-term prosthetic and rehabilitation center, based in Deschapelles, Haiti, near to HAS. This March, HAS announced that it was launching a new center in partnership with the Haitian Amputee Coalition. Through the creation of this center, the opportunity has arisen for HAS to play a significant role in the future of Haiti's health care by serving as one of eight planned centers for the provision of artificial limbs in the country. As with any disability, the loss of a limb in Haiti quickly translates into a loss of livelihood and economic security in an already fragile economic environment. With appropriate prosthesis and rehabilitative care, most patients can regain substantial mobility and independence, and can even enter the work force. Staffed by the US prosthetic experts from Hanger Orthopedic Group and Physicians for Peace, in conjunction with local Haitian medical professionals, the Haitian Amputee Coalition for Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center at HAS is now functional. This initiative also compliments HAS's Rehabilitation Technician Training Program, which, as you know, was established in 2007 in collaboration with Health Volunteers Overseas to build professional infrastructure for rehabilitation services in Haiti. We are all very excited to be a part of this effort, which addresses a monumental need in today's Haiti.

On the US front, we have indeed had our hands full! Our very own Dr. Ian Rawson gave the commencement address at Carnegie Mellon University's graduation ceremony a few weeks ago. View the speech here.

Earlier this month, the Friends of HAS Haiti's Pittsburgh Marathon team was successful in not only completing a very long race, but in managing to raise over $8,000 for the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program. Congratulations team!

Plans are now well underway for our annual benefit gala, which will occur this year on September 10, 2010. The event will be honoring Louise Stephaich, a hospital board member who has worked tirelessly for the cause both before and after the earthquake. The event will be held at the Ellis Armory in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. Ticket prices and more details will come soon! See the Save the Date email here. To request more information, or an official invitation to the event, email us at

We are so excited about where we are headed as an organization, and we really could not do what we do without the support of our friends. Thank you for your continued support of our cause, and please stay in touch!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Uniquely Haitian Experience...

The following was taken from a letter to our president from Cathy Donahoe, who was visiting HAS Haiti as a volunteer with our rehabilitation program. This was one of Cathy's more unique experiences, which she wanted to share with our blog readers:

While I obviously had many experiences during my two weeks at HAS, a uniquely pleasurable one came on the weekend. Plans to hike to two trees overlook with some other visitors didn’t go as planned and it became a solo hike for the sunrise. As I neared the overlook, two Haitian women were going to the same place and we started chatting in my weak Kreyol. On arriving, they split up and took their postures of prayer. The sun was just behind the mountains with cloud cover to delay the sunrise and make it more spectacular at the same time. I took my initial set of pictures then assumed my position for devotions. After a while, one of the ladies started singing and the chorus sounded easy enough that perhaps I could learn it. She began a moving meditation and singing, coming near where I was sitting. It took some effort to communicate that I wanted to learn her song, but we achieved the understanding and the lesson began. Singing together like this was a bonding time for us. We continued to try to communicate as others arrived. When I learned they planned on several hours there, I said my farewells and returned to the hospital grounds, singing my new song as I went, greeting the others heading up the trail to join the event. A couple of days later I met her as I walked along the canal road with others. We shared a quick hug and greeting before continuing on, but she is one whose picture I don’t require to remember her, though I have one.

Thank you and bless you for your efforts on behalf of the people in the Artibonite Valley and your encouragement and support for rehab services!

Cathy Donahoe

SAMS Missionary

Apartado 587

San Pedro de Macoris

Dominican Republic

Here are some of Cathy's pictures from her time working with rehabilitation patients and caregivers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video Interviews in Deschapelles, Haiti

This video was filmed and edited by Edward Rawson, son of Dr. Ian Rawson, current board president of HAS Haiti. For more of Edward's video interviews, visit his website at

"An ill wind..."

The following is a post from Denise English, RTTP program director, who has returned to the US from Haiti. Here are her brief reflections.

February 9, 2010

It’s been four weeks today since everything changed. Three weeks since I’ve written an entry. Two weeks since I’ve been back home in Pittsburgh.

Much to think about since returning. Words not coming easily.

Everything indeed has changed. So many things for the worse.

Some, as a result, for the better.

Infrastructure is being created. Groups are working in concert rather than isolation. Rehabilitation is now being pushed front and center.

"It is an ill wind that blows no good." -- English writer John Heywood (c. 1497 – 1580).

Reflections from David Charles Rehabilitation Services Manager

The following is a translation from French of a blog entry written by David Charles, HAS's rehabilitation services manager. He recounts, from a physical therapists standpoint, how the Rehabilitation service at HAS grew and learned to accommodate the in-pouring of trauma victims they encountered in the wake of the January earthquake.

On Tuesday, January 12th 2010, several hours after the quake hit, the rooms and hallways of HAS Haiti were already brimming with victims and the parents of victims of the major earthquake that hit Haiti and caused unprecedented damage in Port au Prince and its environs.

In the meantime, I wasn't at all conscious of the situation in Deschapelles, as I was at the Plassac Dispensary (one of HAS satellite despensaries), accompanying an rehab technician from RTTP's first graduating class in his adjustment to the first week of work. We were, to say the least, incredibly impatient to return to Deschapelles, not yet knowing the extent of the damage there.

The following day, we returned to HAS and the reality of the situation immediately presented itself. We prepared ourselves to receive incoming patients in the hospital courtyard as there was no longer any space in the interior of the hospital to house quake victims. All hospital personnel were in a state of alarm, and this was also the case for the rehabilitation service which was assailed by requests to immobilize fractures as the physicians made their evaluations.

Only a couple days thereafter, we saw a need to expand the rehabilitation work we were doing at the hospital. Our technicians, those responsible for rehab service, along with the program's professorship--all were implicated in transferring patients from the floor onto beds, to tech patients how to use their crutches after their casts were set, to mobilize patients in beds during their time in the hospital, and to both convince and teach the family how to continue these therapies at home. This crisis time allowed us to better understand how to handle mass car accidents; we were receiving a good deal of patients with all sorts of injuries, broken bones, that were necessary to immobilize immidiately as the victims waited for surgical intervention. Our greatest challenge was to learn how to best manage cases of spinal trauma by acute care, or an immobilization of the spinal column, and all with what little means we had at the time. Among the eight medullary [neural tube] trauma cases that were diagnosed, two passed away during their first five days at the hospital. Of the six others, one died after one week of treatment. The rehabilitative care in these extreme cases consisted primarily in the prevention of pressure sores and contractures, all while we kept the spinal column immobile, all this in addition to educating families how to continue these therapies. Only one patient developed pressure ulcers in the sacro-lumbar region, which, once identified were quickly treated.

Amputees were also among those to whom we gave rehabilitative support, even as soon as a few hours after the amputations were performed.

Right now, we are still in a crisis state, and our major preoccupation is of course the future of the patients who need a good deal of therapy after their trauma. The rehab service staff, composed of three technicians and one physical therapist, is now bolstered by a volunteer who was present at the hospital last year, and who wanted once again to lend a hand to the service.

In the time between my arrival at HAS Haiti in August 2009 to today, I have seen the rehabilitation service here evolve into a program that is much better structured, and which is now remarkably better able to respond effectively to major problems as they arise. The rehabilitation service of HAS is truly rare in that it is one of the few rehabilitation centers that provide therapy from the first day of hospitalization until the day of discharge, and in that it continues to accompany the patient beyond their release with a rehabilitation program that best suits their individual needs.

The rehabilitation service at HAS Haiti will continue to work to improve the living conditions of persons with disabilities by helping them to reintegrate into society. We thank, from the bottom of our hearts, all those who help us to exist, and those who work with us.


Rehabilitation Services Manager

pital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Deschapelles, Haiti

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 19, 2010 Evening

My father turned 87 years old today.

Many this last week have commented that anpil moun ap soufri anpil anpil. Se la viv an." Many people are suffering very very much. This is life.

This is usually followed by “Bon dje pral ede nou.” God will help us.

The recognition of suffering as part of life is not said with condemnation – or resignation. It is an acknowledgment of the situation in which they now find themselves.

Faith here is powerful. I remain deeply moved each time I hear expressions of faith in the midst of this.

The hospital halls and outside courtyard areas remain occupied.

More steam in. We continue to get the very severe cases.

Today there was a reassessment and discharge of those who were ready. Or in some cases not ready, but nothing more could be done.

This is a difficult reality. “Bon dje pral ede yo.” God will help them.

Our staff has worked, and continues to work, non-stop to provide care and they are, along with many supplies, stretched to the limit.

On surgical rounds this morning we methodically moved from patient to patient. Our docs making decisions about how to handle each situation.

They were greeted with relief and questions.

During what is mostly a very serious process we found laughter. A gift from a very special patient. In the midst of an outdoor area sat a woman. One of those incredibly beautiful elders whose faces defy description. She is blind. On her bed sat her young grandson.

I’m not 100% certain of what she was saying, but it was heartfelt and insistent and not to be ignored. She was giving us all what I believe was a piece of her mind. And her assessment of the situation.

With every attempt to move on came another commentary. Our quiet surgeons soon found themselves stopping for affectionate banter.

The entire ward was drawn in.

A new team of surgeons arrived this morning. They went immediately to the operating room. Rumor has it that they are very energetic and determined.

With this increased capacity to provide surgical intervention comes the increased need for post-operative nursing.

If I could wish for something else to arrive today it would be more nurses and pain medications.

And Dad, I’m wishing you a happy birthday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MASH - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The following reflections were written this morning by Denise English, physical therapist, and director of our Rehabilitation Technician Training Program, who has been working at HAS since before the earthquake.

Today I wake to the sound of helicopters overhead.

Our doctors and nurses who were stranded in PAP returned on Sunday.

A team of surgeons arrived. The US Coast Guard brought them in from Ft Lauderdale.

Much needed back-up for our staff. Also a sign to those waiting that indeed the rumors were true. Help was coming.

Dr. Maibach [HAS boardmember and former medical director of the hospital] was in Port Au Prince when the quake happened. He spoke at morning medical meeting yesterday. He expressed his deeply felt sense of having returned home – home here to HAS.

The team from Ft. Lauderdale was to work through last evening and into the early morning – we heard the 3:00 am beep of the vehicle taking them to Cap Haitien. They will be exchanged for an arriving team.

It took them 48 hours to get here. Long circuitous route. They are hoping for a more direct trip home.

Aircraft continue to pass above us. Dawn is breaking. Soon they’ll be visible.

I’m remembering Radar O’Reilly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Update from HAS, Monday 1/18/10

The following is an update from the managing director of HAS, Ian Rawson.

The flow of urgent cases from Port au Prince continues as before except that they are more serious cases. It has been possible to treat and release many of the patients, so slowly the ones who remain are taken off the floor and put on cots, and then to beds.

A surgical team from Miami arrived yesterday evening on a military flight, started to work immediately, and had done a dozen cases by midnight. There is still a long row of surgical candidates in the hallway by the operating suite. The team has provided a welcome relief to the Haitian surgeons, and they are prepared to continue their work through today. They had been stalled in Miami for two days due to the confusion surrounding flights into the Port Au Prince airport.

We are learning every day about disaster medicine; we are a microcosm of what is happening throughout the country, especially in Port au Prince. The clinical demand is astounding; thousands of injured people are seeking care in Port au Prince, and for many it is a race against infection and systemic damages.

We had, and still have, a desperate need for clinical personnel; the surgical team which arrived yesterday has helped a great deal. Our OR nurses have worked as hard as the physicians, and are also in need of a break. More surgeons represent more demand for their services. The Surgery post-operative ward has spilled out into other spaces, but with only a few additional nurses, who are stretched thin.

I hope this comes across not as complaints, but as a description of what life is like on the ground here at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, where the vast majority of our services have been provided by an exclusively local Haitian staff, and are only now getting support from international specialists.

Many of our patients have been in our hallways now for days, patiently waiting for help. We have become good friends and I appreciate their forbearance when I explain why they have not yet had their much-needed surgeries. Their pain is becoming more intense, and they must be frustrated, but they always respond with a smile and an assurance that they are doing all right, when it is obvious that they are not.

Several patients have brought radios. One of the early morning broadcasts play hymns. The patients turn up the volume a bit, and many people quietly join the songs, from both wards, the halls, the pediatric clinic, which is filled with beds, and the old horse parking lot, which is also filled. Many Haitians have lovely singing voices and the sound is angelic. For many, it is an inspiration that their faith will help them to endure the pain.

Your collective concern and support has helped to sustain us all in the face of an incomprehensible demand. I, and all of us here ion Deschapelles, send our sincere thanks.

Ian Rawson

Friday, January 15, 2010

News from Deschapelles and Rehabilitation at HAS

The following is an account sent by email to us from Denise English, the director of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program. Denise is currently in Deschapelles, Haiti, at HAS.

I find my telling of this new beginning far differently than I imagined. It will remain an account of hope and reaffirmation.

We arrived, Chuck Gulas and I, on January 4, 2010. Chuck flew in from St. Louis. Ian Rawson and I flew in from Pittsburgh. Chuck was waving from the curb outside the airport, having arrived ahead of us.

The trip up from Port au Prince to Deschapelles went smoothly. The vistas spectacular. Haiti never disappoints.

Chuck Gulas, PT PhD, is the Dean of the School of Health Professions at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri. This is his third trip to Haiti as volunteer faculty for Health Volunteers Overseas

Beginning the second Rehabilitation Technician Training Program at Hopital Albert Schweitzer (HAS), brought us back. We’re a team. Class started on January 6, 2010.

We find ourselves sharing knowledge and laughter with our six delightful students – each one different – each one engaging – each one expressing their desire to become part of the health care community here assisting the disabled.

They are pioneers. Rehabilitation in this country is in its infancy. Chuck has a way with students. Knowledge delivered with humor. Yesterday class finished with laughter.

The last several days have been quite somber. The students each know someone who has been affected by the earthquake in Port au Prince. Most have family there. Yesterday phone service began to return with news of family and friends. Some good. Some devastating.

Patients began arriving at HAS before dawn on Wednesday. We’d felt the quake here late in the afternoon Tuesday, and the after shocks continued into the next day. We’re not certain, but we think that we felt some slight ones yesterday.

Most medical facilities in Port au Prince were rendered inoperable. Hôpital Albert Schweitzer is one of the few operating without interruption, having been spared the damage of the earthquake. It is now a key rescue facility.

Wednesday continued to see the arrival of vehicle after vehicle of the injured from Port au Prince. Many have been identified as from this area, or having family here. We are 70 miles by road from the capitol.

Our classroom at the hospital has been turned over for patient care. The Physiotherapi room is cleared out and functions as a ward.

Yesterday, we had class here at the house. The day began with discussion of news the students had received. The day ended, as noted above, with laughter. A good decision to spend the day together yesterday. A sense of purpose in a situation that is full of uncertainty.

Chuck and I were privileged to witness the initial mobilization of the hospital staff and community members in response to the arrival of the injured. A sense of calm – in the midst of suffering – prevailed. Patients were carried in the doors – often in the arms of security staff and other hospital employees called into action. Community members came to assist. We began to fill up fast. A search began for additional beds and mattresses. The staff began evaluating and then designating people for radiology and surgery. The nurses moving quietly between patients. Soon it appeared that every possible place was filled.

Hallways were impassable at times.

The patients continued to arrive through the night Wednesday and were still coming last night, Thursday, when I returned to the house around 11:00.

There was not as much heart-wrenching wailing this evening. Hymns could be heard being sung in the wards

Earlier last evening, Tomasz Skowronski, our HVO onsite contact and my partner in coordinating the HAS end of the training program needs for our teachers, was helping to coordinate and effort to secure more beds and mattresses. Now we were spilling out into the courtyards. The halls had long ago been filled to capacity – and then some.

The decision was easily made to press into service a bed and two mattresses that we were not using. Why we didn’t think of it sooner I don’t know. Tomasz arrived shortly with his team and whisked them off. We slept better knowing that someone else did as well. It was touching to watch Tomasz work along side of the others here.

David Charles, PT - the Director of Rehabilitation Services here at HAS – has been a leader in the efforts here – moving amongst the patients and assisting the physicians and nurses. Today we hope to be able to begin to work with him as patients are identified as ready for rehabilitation services.

The injuries are sobering – fractures, spinal cord and head injuries, amputations.

The families are remarkable – caring for and comforting, supporting one another.

Last night we were remarking that when we are in the midst of this we feel hopeful.

We are certain, more than ever, that the training of rehabilitation workers here will impact the lives of many that they touch. It already has. A reaffirmation.

Those who provide that service – our HVO Volunteers – and the sponsor organizations, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer and The Friends of HAS, are key.

In times like this, heroes are mentioned. They are indeed here in Deschapelles. We’ve seen them.

To make a donation to the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer earthquake relief fund, click HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We need your support!

In order to continue to administer care to Haitians affected by this tragedy, we need your help! Please show your support through donations made online here:

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS), located 40 miles NW of Port Au Prince, was able to withstand the recent devastating earthquake and is currently operating with full staff helping victims. With mass casualty protocols in place, the medical staff is evaluating each patient, performing diagnostic tests and delivering life saving care.

Due to the expertise developed over its 54 year history, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is one of the few institutions positioned to provide timely hospital care for the injured. As the flow of people urgently seeking care increases over the next few days and weeks, our resources will be pushed to the breaking point. It is critical that we receive support to help us continue with our mission!

Pittsburgh Office
Hôpital Albert Schweitzer
P. O. Box 81046
Pittsburgh, PA 15217 USA
412.361.5200 phone
412.361.5400 fax

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Afternoon Report Wednesday, 13 Jan 2009

As we have all heard many reports of the terrible disaster---a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, the worst in 200 years. Up to 3 million people may have been affected. So far, tens of thousands of people have died.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, located 40 miles NW of Port-Au-Prince was able to withstand the recent devastating earthquake and is currently operating with full staff helping victims. With mass casualty protocols in place, the medical staff is evaluating each patient, performing diagnostic tests and delivering life saving care. Due to the expertise developed over its 54 year history, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is one of the few institutions positioned to provide timely hospital care for the injured. As the flow of people urgently seeking care increases over the next few days and weeks, our resources will be pushed to the breaking point. It is critical that we receive support to help us continue with our mission.

Ever since early this morning, a steady stream of vehicles, mainly the open-back pickups which serve as public taxis on Haiti's roads, has come to the front of the hospital. In the back are one or two people, their legs or arms covered in bandages or clothes. HAS security staff rush out to the truck with a backboard or gurney, and bring the patient inside to be triaged by the emergency team.

Now, in early afternoon, a crowd of over 200 people are outside the hospital, friends or neighbors of injured patients. They rush to the arriving trucks and try to help to carry the new patients inside. Occasionally, the combination of the person's injuries and the truck ride are more than can be sustained by the patient, and the family members, with great wailing, adapt to the shock of the loss of a loved one. A sound system has been set up outside, so that family members may be called into the hospital to meet with doctors.

Each patient is brought into the Observation Unit and quickly evaluated. Some are sent to for an X-Ray or lab test while others are taken immediately to the holding area outside surgery, where both operating rooms are being used full time.

All beds have been pressed into use, and still there are patients on benches. Gradually, some of the early arrivals and less injured are prepared for discharge.

Systems at HAS are working well; preparation and practice have paid off. The greatest resource, however, is the dignity and grace of people who have suffered a great shock and sometimes tragedy, and remain calm and show concern not just for the people with whom they have come here, but for others as well.

This is the most serious challenge ever faced by HAS in its 54-year history, and while we are currently coping with the onslaught of the injured, we urgently need support.

At this moment, we don't have the capability to accept material goods or personnel. Our greatest and most urgent need is for funds to pay overtime wages to our dedicated staff, and to buy replacement medicines and supplies.

We will update the website with news of relief efforts. To make a donation that will have immediate impact, please go to

Thank you again for the many expressions of help and caring that are coming from around the globe.

HAS Haiti 1/13/09

These are images taken today outside of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. Please, if you are able to dig deeply into your hearts and help us, please do so immediately through making direct contributions to our hospital.

Click HERE for a statement from the Friends' president, Lucy Rawson.

Earthquake in Haiti - Morning Report for Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Please donate to the HAS Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund by clicking HERE.

The following is the report we received this morning from Haiti:

The halls are filled with people who have come in overnight; all nurses and residents were called in to handle a large number of new patients - traumatic injuries, mostly. Hard to get a social history, but several reports of collapses of multi-story buildings in Petite Riviere.

The influx has been handled professionally by the all-Haitian medical staff and nurses - although all available gurneys and benches are occupied, patients are triaged and staged along the corridor to the operating suite and lab/radiology. Families and friends wait anxiously outside, while the necessary care is provided calmly and quietly.

Among the most serious impacts has been the loss of communications as the cell phone towers collapsed; everyone in this area has family in Port-au-Prince, with no contact. Several people left last night for PauP, taking public transport as far as possible, and then prepared to walk several miles into town to check on family members and to report back to anxious relatives.

Out here in the valley, we experienced only minor tremors, but people poured out of their houses onto the roads. As I write this, I am feeling a very small aftershock. Major cell towers are out and only Haitel has a signal. Only a few calls are getting through to PauP, where the radio says that many large buildings have been affected. Our twelve new residents and all physicians all have families in PauP, but can't find out how they are.

You may be getting better news from CNN or Fox than we are; we will continue to monitor as best we can, but we are afraid that the daylight will bring sad information from Port au Prince. Earthquakes are rare here - only the older people realized what was going on. Since the hospital has lights and electric current, the front is crowded with people listening to radios and sharing rumors.

Unfortunately, Haiti has a long experience with natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes and mudslides; each one reinforces our awareness of the fragility of the formal social service system, and the strength of the informal systems, where communities and families come together to care for victims and to ensure that the most seriously injured come to HAS and other facilities.

We are grateful for the many messages of support; time and demands don't allow for personal answers, but be assured of our appreciation. As is usual in disasters, we have sufficient doctors and nurses, a full stock of medications for the most part, and we are fortunate to have not lost power or water. We appreciate your concern, and will continue to offer updates as time allows.

Ian Rawson and the HAS staff

Please donate to the HAS Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund by clicking HERE.