Local News

Haiti quake survivor: 'I came here dead, coming out alive'

Posted June 3, 2010

— A survivor of the January earthquake that devastated Haiti credited God and his wife for bringing him to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Eric Louis, a construction worker, was next to a gas station that exploded when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12. A third of his body had second- and third-degree burns, particularly his head, hands, back and toes.

"I came here dead, and I'm coming out alive," Louis said through an interpreter Thursday at a press conference.

Web only: Haitian quake survivor talks about recovery Web only: Haitian quake survivor talks about recovery

Louis arrived at the N.C. Burn Center two weeks after the earthquake. He underwent six major surgeries, including four skin grafts. On Thursday, he was ready to be released from the hospital.

"I came from an area with dead bodies, and I didn't know anything about this hospital, but God sent me to this hospital to take good care of him," his wife Yvita said, also through a translator. "If I didn't come to this hospital, my husband would be dead probably."

The couple repeatedly thanked God for bringing them to the N.C. Burn Center and mentioned nurses and doctors by name.

Louis had bandages on only one finger, and he has regained some use of his hands and can walk.

He left the hospital wearing a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ball cap and a T-shirt celebrating the Tar Heels' 2007 ACC championship. Yvita Louis pushed her husband out in a wheelchair, then helped him walk to a waiting car.

"We have terrible tragedies and terrible challenges that we face. And it's folks like Louises and what they've been able to accomplish that makes it wonderful for us," Dr. Bruce Cairns, director of the burn center, said.

Doctors said that Louis still has much rehabilitation and therapy ahead of him. The couple will stay at a nearby facility for critical care patients. Haitian-Americans and churches in the Triangle have been helping the couple.

Louis credited his wife for his survival. "Without my wife, I wouldn't have made it," he said.

After the gas station exploded, she found him and carried him 10 miles through the rubble to a hospital, but there were no doctors there. She took him home and cared for him for four days until Dr. Chris Sawyer, part of a medical mission team from Knoxville, Tenn., arranged for him to be airlifted to the U.S.

"After God, she's the one who saved my life, the way she has always has had my side. I love her so much," Louis said at the news conference Thursday.

Yvita Louis smiled and touched him on the hand and shoulder. "I love my husband so much," she replied.

The couple has "a harrowing story to share," Cairns said. "It really reminds us of how tremendous the human spirit really is."


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  • rcrdngcountry Jun 4, 2010


  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Jun 4, 2010

    I'm glad that Eric Louis is survivor, and I hope he becomes a source of encouragement in Haiti to rebuild their country.

  • research9 Jun 4, 2010

    rabbitdog - most doctors take on a certain amount of pro-bono work a year and the burden is taken by the doctor (not the hospital). I'm not positive, but I'm guessing a lot of his medical care has been covered by church/haitian organizations and the rest the Dr offered as pro bono.

  • trogan45 Jun 3, 2010

    This story is so special. I'm happy for the family. I will also pray for the best.

  • davido Jun 3, 2010

    It's not what you can accomplish for yourself that makes life worthwhile. It's what you can do for others.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Jun 3, 2010

    I can't believe the heartless comments about this man that was so severely burned and is THANKFUL for the treatment he received here. Whatever happened to human kindness and empathy? This is low, even for Golo.

    ccacrabbitdog, it's one thing to complain about illegals leeching off us here. It's entirely something else to complain about someone so in need of treatment getting help. Shame on you.

  • whiskers on kitten Jun 3, 2010

    rick-slick I right now have a son and daughter in law down in Haiti and no they have no working hospitals at this time. What care a patient does get is in a tent, and the care is minimal. It might have happen six months ago, but the place is nothing more than a war zone of rubble. You would feel different if it was here in your own country or it was you needing the care.

  • erivera11 Jun 3, 2010

    i saw him today at UNC while the reporters were outside...it look like he was in pain trying to sit down in the passenger's seat. i hope he recovers well =)

    ccacrabbitdog - and what?! at least be grateful you are not in that situation...you have no heart to be talking about a burn victim that comes from a poor country...quit whinning...nobody's fault you have to pay that much for insurance plus the extras (copay..etc)

  • mocena Jun 3, 2010

    rick_slick- No, there aren't. All hospitals in Haiti that haven't been reduced to rubble are WAY over capacity, even now. There are still 1.5 million people without homes in the capital city. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/cb_haiti_earthquake

  • rick_slick Jun 3, 2010

    When does he go back to Haiti? And its been 6 months since the earthquake - are you telling me that there aren't any hospital beds in all of Haiti after 6 months?