Dr. Jim Walton, DO, is a dear friend. We've been working together on community health projects since 1997. As the Chief Health Equity Officer for the entire Baylor Health Care System, Jim devotes his life to health outcome improvements and driving disparities of care out of our community's health care experience. Jim has been instrumental in helping Central Dallas Ministries build our Community Health Services division.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Jim has been serving in Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible earthquake. This message came from him on the last day of his trip. It's worth sharing:
Yesterday, the number of people that visited the outpatient clinic increased dramatically....we think because of our "house calls" from the day before.
The amount of fear in some of the people is very difficult to deal with....the idea of seeing a doctor after these painful injuries concerns them enough that some choose to stay home under their make-shift tents....their neighbors are very supportive as you might guess and the community support around victims is obvious everywhere I went in the villages.....the randomness of which house collapsed and which didn't is also fascinating....same with the severity of injuries of people who had walls or blocks of cement fall on them....the idea of random fate seems prevalent, but the community's response of supporting their victims is everywhere.
The Haitians are resilient happy people....while we cared for the post-op patients late at night, I got a chance to get to know them better, seeing their graciousness and gratitude for any measure of kindness that we showed to them...they sing together in the port-op ward at times, comforting one another (and the care-givers).
Teams of relief working continue to flow into Haiti. We will have another Austin Texas team replace us on Saturday. This was quickly arranged in the lasr 2 days by the mission here, with a focus upon changing the mix of medical providers from surgical to more wound management (surgical debridement, IV and oral antibiotics, dressing changes, etc). In another four to six weeks we will need to focus on cast removals and rehabilitation of weakened limbs.
One of the greatest needs Haiti will have in the intermediate phase of this disaster is the wound care for all of the amputees, fractures with open sores and lacerations that weren't suture due to infection, etc. Additionally, rehabilitation for all of the orthopedic trauma and prosthetics will be a huge opportunity for helping people (particularly the children and young adults) get back to their lives. We should all consider working with Haitian non-profits to build regional rehabilitation/prothsesis and wound management centers could be established in multiple locations around the capital and the countryside to help Haiti....along with rebuilding homes, schools, churches and hospitals with more stable and secure building techniques.
Let me close by saying that I am very excited to come home (we hope to leave this afternnon). The intensity of the work of immediate relief (not to mention the amazing sites, sounds and smells) is difficult to sustain for long periods....our team is exhausted (7 flew home yesterday on a hastily arranged flight) and waiting anxiously for the replacements to arrive. It goes without saying I think that I am leaving with the desire to return as soon as possible to help in these efforts during the long road to recovery.
The Haitian people love to sing about their love for God, and it is not uncommon to hear those sounds around here as well. They have taught me to be more thankful and to see God's hand even in suffering. It is these moments that can teach us all about how we might bring our faith into action.
See you soon,