Local News

Haiti quake victim to leave Chapel Hill burn center

Posted May 26, 2010 6:21 a.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2010 9:28 a.m. EDT

— Four-and-a-half months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the last survivor will soon be released from the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

Eric Louis, a construction worker, arrived at the burn center two weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake. He was covered in second- and third-degree burns on his head, hands, back and toes.

It had taken the strength of his wife and the help of strangers to get him that far.

Louis said he was driving home past a gas station in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck.

"The gas station exploded, and the car also caught on fire," Louis said, speaking through a Creole translator. "He said he was walking over dead people."

Louis' wife, Yvita, found him. She carried him 10 miles through the rubble to the hospital, but there, she said, the scene was only worse.

"On the ground, on the floor of the hospital, people were dying; people were yelling and screaming," the translator said for Yvita Louis. "She said all she found was a piece of plywood, and that was the bed where she put her husband on."

There were no doctors at the hospital, so Yvita brought her husband home. He spent four days without medical treatment, with only the care of his wife.

The couple was found by Dr. Chris Sawyer, part of a medical mission team from Knoxville, Tenn. Sawyer dressed Louis' burns, gave him morphine and antibiotics, and arranged for him to be airlifted to the U.S.

Louis and his wife ended up at the Jaycee Burn Center. When they arrived, they were still wearing the same clothes they had on the day the earthquake hit.

He has spent four months undergoing treatments, including multiple skin grafts. But the treatments were successful, and he will leave the hospital in a couple days.

Louis and his wife will stay with Haitian-Americans in the Triangle while he continues his recovery.

"He's alive. How would feel seeing this, that you were part of the miracle from Haiti? It's tremendous," Sawyer said.