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Posted By: Cherri Dobson on December 7, 2010

Labels: Haiti , Humanitarian Aid, Infectious Disease, Volunteers

Saving Lives in Haiti

The second rotation of Project HOPE volunteer medical personnel has just returned from Haiti after spending up to three weeks in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer fighting that country's cholera outbreak. The six nurses and one doctor worked every day on the cholera ward. The hospital, which is located in Haiti's Artibonite River Valley, is at the epicenter of the outbreak.

The largest proportion of Haiti's cases are from that region, and this team arrived just after Hurricane Tomas stirred up the water sources and brought cholera to a large percentage of the population. Below are some of the experiences they had while there:

Nurses Katie D'Entremont, Aislinn Mangan, and Cheri Hoffman were working the night shift when a very sick boy arrived. The boy was severely dehydrated from cholera, plus was suffering from severe asthma. His airway was almost closed off, and his blood oxygen levels were very low. No one was available from the pharmacy to dispense medications that could help, so the nurses scoured the hospital to find the appropriate drugs. The steroids and airway dilators were found on the Pediatric ward, and the boy was stabilized thanks to their efforts.

Susan Hall, RN had worked a long day shift on the cholera ward and was relaxing one evening. She heard that there was a very sick patient who had arrived who needed IV access for fluids. No one on the ward had been able to obtain access, so Susan ran back to the ward to help. Using the skills acquired after years of cardiac surgery experience, she was able to quickly cannulate a vein so that the patient could get the resuscitative fluids she needed.

Micaela Root, RN, a first time HOPE volunteer, had only four hours notice that she would be going to Haiti! She quickly got her affairs in order, obtained the time off from work, and ran to catch her plane. Micaela was an invaluable member of the nursing team while there, working nonstop to change IV fluids in a timely manner, flush clotted IVs, and assist in resuscitations.

Steven Gardner, MD and Cherri Dobson, RN worked together to save one patient who was discovered in hypovolemic shock. The patient was unresponsive, without palpable pulses, and had a heart rate of 30. Cherri, who was not at work at the time, was summoned when the staff was unable to place an IV. She ran over from the library and was able to place an effective IV in the patient. Meanwhile, Dr. Gardner put a catheter in the femoral vein and was manually holding it in place while fluids were pumped in. The patient survived and was walking around the next day.

Those were just some of the many experiences had by the HOPE team during their stay at HAS. Cholera is a devastating disease, but it is very curable if the medical and nursing teams work efficiently to provide rapid fluid resuscitation. All the volunteers had a very rewarding time at HAS, and all were tired but happy to return home after their rotation was over.

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