Fieldset
Wednesday, January 20

 I had the scare of my life this morning. I had hoped I could sleep in an extra 10 minutes because I’ve been working on 5 hours a night for the last week and am hitting the bottom of the barrel.

 I had the scare of my life this morning. I had hoped I could sleep in an extra 10 minutes because I’ve been working on 5 hours a night for the last week and am hitting the bottom of the barrel.

No such luck. I suddenly felt my sleeping bag on the bedroom floor rocking back and forth. For about a second I thought maybe I was dizzy from being tired. But that thought didn’t last long when the rocking

got stronger.

I jumped up, scrambled to the door in the dim morning light in my pyjamas and ran downstairs to the locked front door. I didn’t have the key, but fortunately my colleague caught up to me to unlock it and we both got out.

I was shaking and on the verge of crying, and so was he. He had survived the quake last week, but he still had the courage to run back inside the house to get our two other colleagues out. My heart was racing. I finally understood the meaning of vulnerable, to be so exposed to this overwhelming force.

That was the start to this day.

This afternoon I spent a few hours at our field hospital in Carrefour. The entrance is through grey thick plastic sheeting, which is attached to two trees, spanning across a street in the middle of the town. This is the triage area, a wound-dressing area, and an inpatient ward.

It hurts to see so many injured children and adults, some screaming in pain as their dressing gets changed by a nurse. They have serious burns, wounds that are infected, broken arms, deep cuts in the skull, gangrened limbs, and the list goes on.

The entrance into the hospital courtyard is through a small door in a gate. This is the surgical ward, which is basically a series of beds under two blue tarps and a tree. On one side, there are pregnant women who are giving birth, or who need c-sections. On the other side, there are three beds for more serious surgery, such as amputations.

The surgical ward is basically a series of beds under two blue tarps and a tree. Photo ©MSF

The surgical ward is basically a series of beds under two blue tarps and a tree. Photo ©MSF

Our teams are performing surgeries outdoors mostly because the staff are too traumatized to work inside the hospital building. Despite these conditions, in the five hours I was there, the team did at least three amputations, two for young children. They removed necrotic tissue on a young woman’s thigh, and did a c-section.

Our team is tired. They have been working long long hours in the heat, in crowded, noisy, demanding and stressful conditions. Fortunately, we’ve located a brand new spacious school building that was not affected by the earthquake, just down the street from our hospital. We hope to move to this new location in the coming days.

The one shining light in all this physical and emotional suffering is the birth of healthy little babies. Eight healthy little new ones arrived today under the blue tarp of our hospital. We all need them to breathe new life and hope into this torn country.