Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Haiti: the Story Behind the Photo

Haiti will forever be a part of my life now. Living in Honduras, I started out on the trek to Haiti after the earthquake. Upon arrival in Port-au-Prince, the first thing that hit me was the sea of humanity. This little town held 4 million people. Keeping things in perspective, I am living in a country of 7 million people (so over half of the population of Honduras would be residing in the city of Port-au-Prince). We drove to our camp site, Quisqueya Christian School (QCS). We immediately found a spot on the grass, set up our tents, and got to the business of preparing ourselves for the task ahead of us.

Our first few days found us in the Diquini Refugee Camp of about 30,000 people. We worked alongside Haitian doctors and nurses. Collectively, we saw about 150 people the first two days. A Haitian physician asked our team leader if we would consider going over to the hospital to work. Our team, consisting of 4 MD’s, 4 RN’s, a Nurse Practitioner, engineers, a dentist, and various other skilled individuals, agreed. We packed up our things at QCS and brought all of our medications, supplies, tents, etc. to our new home for the week—the upstairs’ floor of the hospital.

Diquini Adventist Hospital had been built in the 70’s, but had been out of use for the past decade. Doctors from France discovered that the hospital had a few operating room suites; so it seemed like an ideal location and re-opened it right after the earthquake. Because it had been closed for so long, the patient rooms were not usable; there were few supplies and no medications.

Our first day there was indicative of what was to come. We arrived on our shift (a 16- hour night shift) and within the first 10 minutes a woman arrived and collapsed on the floor. We attended to her medically for about 45 minutes, but she passed away. About an hour later, another baby that had been delivered to a very sick mother was in respiratory distress; we worked on that baby for about an hour before we were able to get her transported to the U.S.S. Comfort, where we later learned she passed away. A few hours later, we tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate another baby. Then, another man with severe tuberculosis came in needing to be intubated and transported to a military camp.

Finally, at the end of my shift, while the physicians and nurses were in a morning devotional, a woman came in to the hospital in active labor. I was the only medical person on hand, and within 10 minutes I delivered her baby on the floor of the hospital on a mat. My eyes were opened to what this all meant.

This was desperate.

We barely had the supplies and medication we needed, but certainly not the number of staff that this situation required. However, God had placed us here at this time, in this place, and we would do the best that we could—and we did! We were able to pray and offer comfort to so many people: people lying on mats on the floor because there were no beds, people who should have been in ICU’s, people that were dying, people that came in dead.

Yet, this was not the only hospital that found itself in similar circumstances. This was the same scene in hospitals all around Port-au-Prince. We also saw people who were in mental distress. One young mother had lost three sisters, two brothers, her mother, her father, and her husband. She was left caring for her 14 year-old, her 8 year-old, and her 3 month-old baby. The vacant expression on her face showed her loss of hope. (She is the one featured in my photo for this week’s Picture Praise.) The only hope that she and all of Port-au-Prince has, is to find the hope that can be found only in Jesus Christ.

As we flew out of Haiti, I looked down on the city that is forever changed. I looked down with wonder at how this city, this country could EVER recover. I kept coming back to one thing: Only through Jesus Christ will this country find its hope again and only with His loving grace will they understand that He is the only one who gives life.

Photographer: “My name is Erin Pettengill, and my family and I have been full-time missionaries in Honduras for almost 2 years now. I’m am a registered nurse, my husband is a church planter, and my 13 year-old daughter helps with our ministry and attends a bilingual school in town.”

1 comment:

Cory & Kris Thede said...

While I don't know if you'll ever read this as you shared your story months ago-I wanted to say thank you. I'm a family practice doctor who has lived and worked in Haiti for 12 years. I was the only ex-pat at the Diquinie hospital on the Friday following the quake and one of the few on Saturday. Thank you for coming to help. The Lord continues to work in Haiti. You don't know who was watching you try to save lives and who's life you changed. Some day we'll know all the positives that came out of the quake. Thank you.


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