Duke medical team returns from Haiti

Posted February 17, 2010 5:20 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2010 6:37 p.m. EST

— A team of medical professionals from Duke are back in the Triangle after traveling to Haiti to provide much-needed medical support to earthquake victims there.

A month ago, the 7.0-magnitude quake leveled most of Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people were killed.

The Duke team, consisting of 14 people, conducted surgical procedures and provided care for those suffering from injuries and infectious diseases. They spent 10 days in Haiti, working at two Cange hospitals, about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince.

“Clearly, the most striking thing was the massive destruction,” Dr. Ian Greenwald said of his experience.

“The one thing that you just can't describe are the smells – the smells of blood, the smells of feces and urine, the smell of pus and people dying,” Dr. Mark Shapiro, trauma surgeon, said. “Working in tents that reached 110 (to) 120 degrees, you had to go out in the heat of the day, into the sunshine, to actually cool off from the tents.

The doctors worked with a Partners in Health hospital – a global health organization already in Haiti. They said some patients were suffering from severe infections because they had not received immediate medical care after the Jan. 20 quake.

“They were still arriving at the medical facilities with their original injuries,” Dr. David MacLeod, an anesthesiologist, said.

Registered nurse Katie Sligh said it was difficult to witness the devastation caused by the quake.

“It was hard, patient after patient, to realize this is their life now and it's a long road ahead," she said.

Duke University Health System is considering sending another group back to Haiti as there are still so many people who need help.

“We did a phenomenal job there, but it wasn't done,” Shapiro said.

“It’s the right thing to do. We have the abilities and the gifts, and it's the right thing to go and serve,” Sligh said.