Preparing for Haiti: Pre-Deployment Briefing Video

By Chris Lindsley
Blog Editor

On January 28 the first team of 22 doctors, nurses and other health professionals from the University of Maryland Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine left for a relief mission in Haiti.

Prior to departing, the team received a detailed pre-deployment briefing from Dr. Andrew Pollak, associate director of trauma at the UM Shock Trauma Center, after he spent a few days in Haiti assessing the medical needs there.

Get an inside look at how a hospital prepares its team for a relief mission to a disaster site like Haiti after the recent earthquakes by watching this video.

Reflections From Haiti: “I Felt Invisible”

By Anthony Amoroso, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Editor’s Note: Dr. Amoroso was part of the first University of Maryland team to go to Haiti to provide medical care to earthquake survivors.  Below are his reflections, written while en route back to Baltimore. Read Dr. Amoroso’s second Haiti blog post

I’m now in Boston awaiting my connection to BWI, my extraction provided by a UN cargo plan. I’m sitting here watching the Rachael Ray Show … the altered sense of reality is intense.

Watching CNN with the horrific pictures of bodies and destruction compelled us all to do something. I am grateful for Dr. [Robert] Redfield, Dr.  [Thomas]  Scalea and all the others for giving me the opportunity to put away the TV remote and help.

I had been to Haiti 5 other times. I knew things would be difficult, but words and a few photos from a moving car cannot capture the utter destruction, impromptu camps, dust, smells and filth. There are certainly thousands upon thousands of people entombed in the rubble and still thousands suffering from untreated wounds and fractures. And I fear the next wave of misery from unsanitary living conditions is around the corner.

For the first time in Haiti I felt invisible, and I was stuck by the fact that people were getting back to the daily hard work necessary to survive in Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian people are hard as nails, but I simply cannot image any rosy future for Port-au-Prince. The international response, though large, is perplexing, and I think the poverty, destruction, and trauma is a staggering challenge.

I believe we did something meaningful. I believe we made a indelible connection not only to the patients but the staff and students of the hospital. I am proud to have been part of the Maryland team — tough, focused, careful and caring and never self important or touristic. I am thankful for the vision, professionalism, respect and humor of the “team.”

The terms “block crush injury” will be with me for life.

The Situation in Haiti: UM Doctor Shares His Experiences

By Nabile Safdar, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Radiology

Editor’s Note: Dr. Safdar spent three days in Haiti as part of a group of Baltimore and Washington DC volunteers from The Islamic Medical Association of North America. He shares his experiences below:

Lying on the foosball table with a lollipop in her right hand and a photograph in her left, she could have been my own daughter.  This smart, patient 3-year-old was like Khadija in so many ways, except that her left leg was broken, and now 6 days after the earthquake she was receiving her first pain control.  Not 10 feet away from her, a 7-day-old baby girl lie dehydrated, born by Cesarean section the day before the earthquake.  Her family members had one bottle of formula, after which they fed her sugar water, after which they fed her goat’s milk — all in an effort to keep her alive while her mother was pulled from the rubble.  Suffering from vomiting and diarrhea for days, the child was dehydrated.

Now, her mother lie dazed on the air hockey table while Ayesha and Irfan [other medical volunteers] debrided the burn left by the light bulb that fell onto her thigh, not to be removed until it was already cool.  All I knew was they were no different than my own family.  I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like knowing her infant was hungry, hearing her cries, but being stuck — unable to provide the breast milk that was her birthright and lifeline.  It was too painful.

There was no way to prepare myself for what I saw the first two days of the makeshift clinic we helped set up in a damaged amusement park in Port-au-Prince.  I had imagined, almost a week out from the disaster, some people would have already received medical attention.  This was not the case.  We treated infected wounds, fractures, dehydration, and barely recognizable limbs with the limited arsenal of antibiotics, pain control, crutches, splints, Betadine, and gauze we brought with us.

Thank God we had a local partner in the group Aimer Haiti to set up the clinic, know their city inside-out, and identify which hospitals were still operational.  We held the most seriously injured patients in the concession pavilion of the amusement park, giving them something to drink and pain control, until transport could be arranged to one of the other overwhelmed facilities nearby.

When we started seeing patients, we asked them all about their families.  After some time, the uniformity of the answers stopped us.  After doing the best we could to treat them, we started asking them to pray for us.  They always understood this request.  We all knew that the prayers of the world were with the people of Haiti; what the rest of us really needed, though, were the prayers of the Haitian people. After all, we were just like their families too.

UM Shock Trauma Team Prepares for Haiti Relief Mission

By Chris Lindsley
Blog Editor

The University of Maryland Medical Center is working with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to mobilize a team of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals from the UM Shock Trauma Center and other areas to assist in the medical relief effort in Haiti.

The mission is a partnership with Catholic Relief Services, the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and St. Francois de Sales Hospital in Haiti. Catholic Relief Services is making many of the logistical arrangements in Haiti for the medical team.

Dr. Andrew Pollak, associate director of trauma at the UM Shock Trauma Center and an associate professor of orthopaedics at the UM School of Medicine, talks about preparations for sending a team to Haiti and what medical issues and challenges the team will likely face.

Preparing for a Blizzard

By Jim Chang
Director of Safety

“The Medical Center is always open” is the operational motto that we strive toward. We plan and prepare for situations such as blizzards to make sure we can serve our patients regardless of the weather or event.

Our preparations begin with identifying what can happen to us — yes — blizzards are on the list. We then develop response plans that talk about notifying key staff, mobilizing resources, staffing, etc.; train staff; and we test them in periodic disaster drills.

For this storm in particular [which produced a Baltimore record 21.1 inches of snow over two days, and 20.5 inches on December 19 alone], we identified the threat early in the week and were taking all of the right precautions such as ordering extra food and supplies, notifying staff, and talking with our community partners.

Our challenge was with the severity of the storm — on Wednesday and into Thursday, no one (weather forecasters included) believed that this would be a record breaker. As we saw the predictions worsening with each hour, UMMC leadership and staff responded to the challenge.