Haiti

Four Haitian burn patients fly to RDU for treatment in N.C.

Posted January 26, 2010 7:38 a.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2010 6:54 p.m. EST

— Four burn patients from Haiti flew to Raleigh-Durham International Airport Tuesday morning so they can receive treatment in North Carolina, according to state Division of Emergency Management officials.

A child was also on the plane to accompany a parent, spokeswoman Julia Jarema said in a statement. A spouse of another patient also traveled with the group.

"Late yesterday, North Carolina got a request to receive an overflow of burn patients that could not be accommodated in Florida," Jarema said. "At this time, we know of no other groups from Haiti that will be sent to North Carolina."

Several ambulances arrived at the airport to pick up a woman, 54, and three men – ages 24, 29 and 61 – whose plane landed at 9:15 a.m.

“They were burn patients, but they had obviously received significant medical care because they were dressed and everything – ready for transport," said Jonathan Olson of Wake County EMS.

Olson said the patients, who were wrapped in wool blankets, looked tired, but their "eyes were wide open."

They were moved quickly into heated ambulances

"I think they were ready, once they realized it was cold here, to get inside where it was warm,” he said.

One man was going to Wake Forest Baptist Burn Center, and the other patients were taken to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

"The burn centers have agreements of where to distribute patients," said Jeffrey Hammerstein, district chief of Wake County EMS. "Arrangements have been made with other burn centers to distribute those folks so that everybody can get the proper care."

The three patients brought to Jaycee Burn Center have severe burns and will require a number of treatments, including surgery, the center's director Dr. Bruce Cairns said during a press conference Tuesday.

One person was burned when a gas station exploded and his car caught  fire during the earthquake, Cairns said. The man's wife carried him 10 miles for treatment.

Cairns said another patient was workingwith chemicals when a vat spilled. The third patient suffered a burn from a grease fire.

The patients have gotten good care, but need additional work, Cairns said.

"These injuries clearly have not been treated the way we would take care of them and they have not received the pain medication that we would normally be able to provide here," he said.

The patients have burns ranging from 10 to 35 percent of their bodies.

"They involve all the areas of the body. Some of them are severe hand burns. Some of them involve the face and the scalp and the back and the feet, as well as the rest of the body," Cairns said.

Dr. Samuel Jones, of the Jaycee Burn Center, said the patients have an excellent prognosis. "Once we get the burn off and get the skin graft done, they should be able to return to full function," he said.

The patients speak French and Creole, so the center has brought in interpreters to help doctors communicate with them.

Officials said the patients are worried about their families back home.

"They are happy, but they are fearful as well. We made arrangements for them to call back to their home as a little comfort measure," said Grace Schmits, nurse manager at the Jaycee Burn Center.

Patients and their family members arrived in the same clothing they were wearing when the earthquake struck, Cairns said. The hospital has been providing them with food and clothing.

"These patients have been through a terrible ordeal, as have their families, but what's remarkable is that their hearts, minds and souls are back to their loved ones and their country," he said.

Cost associated with caring for these patients are being managed in accordance with federal and state Refugee Assistance programs, said Dalton Sawyer, of UNC Health Care. "We are working very closely with public and private partners to address these costs," he said.

No additional Haitian patients were expected to arrive in North Carolina on Tuesday, UNC Hospital officials said.