by Ruth, aka Momma Frizzle
Sunday, January 24, 2010 — In the process of closing its doors, Hopital Lumiere, in Bonne Fin, Haiti, was a ghost town of a hospital before the earthquake on January 12, 2010. One unpaid doctor and a skeleton crew of nurses were seeing a couple patients a day.
Within 36 hours after the quake, more than 300 patients were flooding into the hospital. Many had extensive injuries and wounds that were already septic. A visiting doctor started doing amputations in order to save lives. But there was little medication and no post-operative care. Dozens just laid down in the hospital and waited.
Help came Saturday, January 23, when a 12-member team from the Apostolic Christian Church arrived and performed some quick emergency surgeries. Then six Lumiere Medical Ministries (LMM) team members arrived Sunday afternoon — Fred and Dan Brown, Delena Wilson, Helene Pearson, Steve Nelson, and Evan Ekman.
“It looks like a M.A.S.H. unit here,” Dan said this evening on the phone. “There are people laying in the hallways. Amputees with week-old bandages. Tons of infection. Nurses are the most obvious need. All these surgeries and amputations need post-operative care, but nobody has been able to do that.”
Now with nearly 20 medical personnel on hand, the groups have joined forces and are dusting the cobwebs off this once fading hospital.
“I just wanted to point out that in about a hour we’ve put together an entire hospital staff,” Dr. Evan Ekman said at the end of the organizational meeting.
For the past three hours, the doctors have been circulating among the patients, triaging and scheduling surgeries. Daniel estimates there are 70-80 patients laying in the rooms and hallways of the hospital. Over the past week, many have been sent away and others have died.
The injuries are disturbing reminders of what the people have been through. Many arrived in Bonne Finn after traveling over 100 miles from earthquake damaged areas. Twelve days later, they still have open wounds that will likely require skin grafts.
“Tonight we went around reassuring people,” Dan said. “They are such dear, sweet people. Their threshold of pain is phenomenal.” Dr. Fred Brown talked to one lady with a broken femur and torn up arms, when he asked if she was in pain, the lady responded, “No, I’m okay.”
Tonight, Dr. Brown literally wiped off his old blackboard from 30 years ago and wrote the names of 16 patients scheduled for surgery in the morning after chapel.
Nurses — Delena, Helene and Steve, whom Daniel calls “Mr. Haiti,” — are administering meds, comforting very hurt people and preparing for surgery tomorrow. Helene will also be reviving a position she held 30 years ago at Hopital Lumiere — head nurse. She’ll work as a liaison between American and Haitian nurses, so that ”we don’t step on any toes as we try to help,” Dan said.
The group is also stocking and organizing the 120-bed hospital. The number of patients is expected to swell as word spreads that Hopital Lumiere is full of light once more!
Dr. Brown is functioning as hospital administrator and will be assisting in surgeries. Dan is in charge of transporting patients, keeping doctors supplied, translating, general administration and organization. Today, he even fixed a pair of earphones with super glue and duct tape from his magical backpack!
“Our prayer was that the Lord would put us where we were most needed . . . we’re there now,” Dan said with conviction.
Epilogue: After a steady decline and faltering support over the past decade, Hopital Lumiere proved invaluable as a base of medical operations during the earthquake crisis. One doctor in particular was convinced that the hospital was too important to fade away. Dr. Keith Knepp passionately and purposely pursued saving Hopital Lumiere through a meandering year-and-a-half process that eventually brought the hospital under the auspices of the Apostolic Christian World Relief this past summer. Dr. Fred Brown also continued to support the hospital ministry where he has served for more than 30 years.
Meanwhile, King’s Hospital continues to serve Port-au-Prince under the excellent leadership of Dr. Morquette, with aid from Lumiere Medical Ministries. Dr. Morquette still travels to Hopital Lumiere providing expertise in the place where he first worked as a medical doctor with Dr. Fred Brown.
There are numerous ways you can be involved in the good work going on in Haiti today, from donating to going. (Click the links above!) Our family plans for 2012 include both.