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
Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti