Haiti 'faces amputee generation'

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Pastor Dale Morgan

Jan 29, 2010, 5:26:49 AM1/29/10
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Perilous Times

Haiti 'faces amputee generation'

Haiti faces a generation of amputees after tens of thousands of people lost limbs in the earthquake that struck the island two weeks ago, doctors have warned.

By Nick Allen in Port-au-Prince
Published: 6:18PM GMT 28 Jan 2010
Haiti 'faces amputee generation' : A mother sits next her child, who lost a leg in the Haiti earthquake, at a field hospital in Port-au-Prince
A mother sits next her child, who lost a leg in the Haiti earthquake, at a field hospital in Port-au-Prince Photo: AFP / GETTY

The one building in the country that produced prosthetic limbs was damaged and there is an urgent need for them.

At Port-au-Prince Hospital doctors have amputated hundreds of arms, legs, hands and feet and said patients with crush injuries and gangrenous infections were still arriving in large numbers from remote areas of the countryside.

Beatrix Moran, a Haitian American nurse from New York, said: "This is like jungle medicine here. We try to do the best for the patients but sometimes we don't have the material we need." She was attending to Marie Guerdy, 40, a mother of two, who was selling bread in the street when a building collapsed on her, crushing her leg. Her left leg was amputated above the knee.

Miss Guerdy used to earn 50 Haitian Gourde, which is less than £1, a day but will not be able to work again to provide for her children Dassy, 22, and Jean Charles, three.

Breaking down in tears she said: "Life is over for me because I didn't have a chance to provide for my children. I don't know what to do. Thank God it was me and not my children but how will I get food for them?"

The hospital is suffering a desperate nursing shortage after a wing collapsed in the Jan 12 earthquake burying 150 nursing students, the entire second and third year classes.

Dr Bruce Mintz, from New Jersey, had personally treated up to 200 amputee patients at the hospital.

He said: "Every day they are coming in, more and more. We have some of the best surgeons in the world here but we haven't got the number of nurses we need. The nurses are completely overwhelmed." Dr Beat Kehrer a Swiss paediatric surgeon, said the situation was worse than a war.

He said: "In a disaster like this we have all the patients created in one moment. Whereas in war it is gradual. We just cannot treat 200,000 patients.

We have thousands of disabled people and we have many amputations including babies."

Outside the damaged hospital 200 patients are lying in beds under trees.

On the US Navy's 1,000-bed ship Comfort, anchored off Port-au-Prince, operating rooms run around the clock.

Commander Mark Marino, head of nursing, said medical staff on the ship who had served during wars "liken this to war on steroids because the volume is so great."
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