Alison Smith is a medical student at Tulane University who is posting frequent reports from Haiti to the MTV Newsroom blog this week. Today she offers us an account of the relief she felt on Thursday (January 21) after the arrival of a U.S. Naval hospital ship.
Today felt like we made more progress and were able to create a little hope. We received some food from the United Nations and the Sisters of Charity, but most isn't getting to the people. Most is still in warehouses.
The USS Comfort, the U.S. Navy hospital ship docked off the coast of Port-au-Prince, is finally open. We started early in the morning gathering the sickest patients — all those who could have a chance at survival if they received better medical care than what we can provide. More people died at night because there remains not enough medical personnel, lights or communication available at night to provide proper care. Four babies were born at night as well. I spent most the day finding people that I knew needed to be flown to the ship. The little boy from yesterday, Dave, an eight-year-old who was found in a collapsed house yesterday [after spending more than a week under the rubble along with another child], made it through the night, but he developed a fever. I secured him a way to get to the ship, but his father, who spent all night caring for him and worrying about his condition, was not allowed to go. [Editor's note: At press time it was unclear whether Dave is the same boy as "Kiki," the child who was filmed smiling after being rescued.]
We had to send off many young children today without their parents and hope that they will be able to reconnect at a later point. It was heartbreaking to watch the parents let their children go alone. Many were crying knowing that it was their only real chance at survival. Dave and many other sick children were loaded into Army vehicles and driven to the helicopter to go to the ship. I pray that Dave can receive the proper level of care that he needs and can be reunited with his father soon. We evacuated about 50 people before we had to shut down transport because the ship had become overwhelmed by people flooding the dock trying to receive medical care.
We have a lot of doctors and nurses now, but it feels like we are still missing many very sick patients. The hospital buildings are developing more cracks daily, often in the span of a few hours. I am not sure how much longer they will be safe for us to work in. Many people are very fearful and refuse to come inside. At one point during the day, someone was moving a heavy piece of equipment and everyone in the hospital thought it was another earthquake and ran outside screaming and crying. I had to spend a lot of time calming down the patients. We have to find a way to treat them outside, as it is very difficult to develop a system when people are scattered. We found some people with open fractures and gangrenous limbs who have been outside the hospital for days and have not received the immediate treatment that they needed.
One of the most touching stories from today was about a boy named Giovani, who is nine years old (that's him with me in the picture). I was visiting one of the "tent cities" nearby the hospital to assess their needs when I noticed a young boy sitting on the street alone. We talked to him and learned that his father and mother had died in the earthquake. He has no family left. We took him to the hospital, got him some food and decided to bring him to the place we are staying tonight. He was very solemn at first, but once we climbed into the car, he leaned over and grabbed my hand and kissed my cheek. He couldn't stop smiling the whole way. We want to get him to an orphanage or someplace that can care for him. We have spent all night asking his story, which seems very truthful. He was buying candy on the street when the earthquake hit and his parents were inside. The rest of his family had died many years earlier.
There are many "street children" in Port-au-Prince that may have run away from their families, but I believe he is a victim of this tragedy. I am glad that we can make him safe and comfortable tonight and hopefully find him a safe place to live tomorrow. But there are so many more children out there on the streets tonight with nowhere to go and nothing to eat.
Throughout this journey, I have learned that we cannot be overwhelmed by the great need. Rather, we need to reach out to one person at time and to care for them. It is going to take the whole international community to bring love and hope to Haiti, but together we really can help the Haitian people to rise up from this great tragedy.
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 Now" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET.