Nearly a week after a ruinous 7.0 earthquake reduced much of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to rubble, doctors aiding the victims of the tragedy are scrambling to save the lives of the many children gravely injured and orphaned by the disaster.
Surgeon Scott Sundick, 31, arrived in Haiti on Saturday from New Jersey to pitch in with the organization CRUDEM, which has been helping develop the rural town of Milot since 1968. The fifth-year surgical resident was already scheduled to do some pro bono work in Haiti as part of an annual trip undertaken by his hospital, but when the earthquake struck, the visit — initially to perform basic surgeries like hernia procedures that are hard for the island's natives to get under normal circumstances — suddenly turned into a life-saving mission.
CRUDEM runs Hôpital Sacré Coeur (HSC) in Cap Haitien, which is the largest private hospital in the North of Haiti and has served as a beacon of hope for the impoverished nation. It is estimated that 60 percent of the population lack access to basis health care services.
Almost as soon as he hit the ground on Saturday, Sundick was told U.S. Navy helicopters would be airlifting patients to the 73-bed hospital, which is an eight hour drive from the capital. "When we first arrived, they were not bringing patients here, and over two days we basically communicated that we were sitting in an empty hospital with a trauma team while people needing surgery to save their limbs or their lives were dying in the street," he said.
"The poverty here is worse than National Geographic," he told his friends of Facebook on Saturday. "And people are sicker than the TV dramas. It's like 'M*A*S*H.' While the physicians working in the capital were overwhelmed by the tide of wounded and dying." Sundick wrote on Sunday that HSC still had plenty of capacity. "People are being shot in the street in Port-au-Prince because they are not receiving surgical treatment," he said.
By Monday, Sundick said patients were being flown in "non-stop" as well as being transferred from other facilities. "Eventually, the U.S. Coast Guard and then the Navy began transporting patients to us from Port-au-Prince for care," he said. "Now we are working non-stop in three operating rooms and doing what we can with limited equipment and dwindling supplies."
He described a patient whose arm was amputated on the streets with no anesthesia, as well as newly orphaned children who arrived at HSC by helicopter with tape on their foreheads explaining that their parents had died.
Head here to learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET.