Even as public attention starts to drift away from recovery efforts in Haiti, many non-profit organizations and hospitals continue to send supplies and care to the ravaged Caribbean country. Last week, we talked to some of the 22 volunteers who were part of the second wave of personnel sent by the University of Chicago Medical Center to sites in Port-au-Prince and Fond Parisien, near the border with the Dominican Republic. As those physicians, nurses and house-staff arrived in Haiti, the first team of UChicago volunteers returned home, carrying stories of heartbreaking loss and uplifting hope. We’re working to videotape interviews with all of the returning volunteers, and will post them to the blog as they become available.
Tiffany Cupp is a nurse in the emergency room at Comer Children’s Hospital. She actually was the first Medical Center employee to reach Haiti, having joined an effort through her church and a Christian organization, CURE International, that sent a team of volunteers to staff a community hospital in Port-au-Prince only 9 days after the earthquake. Cupp said she was the only pediatric nurse at one of only two functional hospitals at the time, seeing nearly 500 patients a day.
While in Haiti, Cupp formed a bond with an 8-year-old girl named Yveline (pictured above) whose house collapsed in the earthquake, killing both of her parents and burying her under rubble for three days before she was rescued by an uncle. “She was so strong,” Cupp said. “We formed this really unique bond that I will cherish forever.” Cupp hopes to return to Haiti for a second visit, possibly with a University of Chicago Medical Center team in March.
“It was just amazing to see how resilient the Haitian people are, and how caring and loving they are,” Cupp said. “It was very overwhelming.”
Rex Haydon is an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, whose specialty is orthopedic surgery and surgical oncology. But Haydon was not needed as a surgeon at the field hospital in Fond Parisien where he spent two weeks with five other Medical Center volunteers and 300 patients. Instead, his expertise was applied to patients who had already received orthopedic surgery for severe crush injuries suffered in the earthquake, surgeries that were sometimes rushed in less than ideal conditions in the days following the disaster. Haydon focused on giving these patients the follow-up care that they had lacked, making sure that they were not suffering from post-surgical complications and putting them on track to a healthy recovery.
“It was deeply gratifying to be in a position where you could truly not only help people but see them improve over time,” Haydon said. “As an orthopedic surgeon, that’s what we all want to see: patients that have received care but were afraid to put weight [on their injury], afraid to walk, afraid to mobilize, and to see them get up and show everybody else in the camp that they can do it. It’s a chain reaction. It really for me was a major, major change in what we were doing there.”