Jan. 29 - Patients from Haiti earthquake at UNC Hospitals
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010
Yvita Louis sat in a small conference room on Wednesday (Jan. 27) with a slight smile and bright eyes, and looked the embodiment of calm. She looked strong. But if you knew the chaos and utter turmoil she had been through the past 16 days, you would know that hers is a look of exhaustion. She sat in the room, facing a flock of reporters, and spoke quietly in Creole as a translator related her story.
Haitian patients arrive at UNC—Press Conference
Haitian patients arrive at UNC Health Care
Her husband was driving home from work Jan. 12 and stopped at a gas station. Then the earth shook. The gas station exploded and enveloped his car in flames.
It took hours for Yvita to find him. She went to a hospital, but she wasn’t allowed in. She stood atop a car and shouted his name: Eric.
He was badly burned, but it was clear he wasn’t going to get help where he was. So Yvita lifted him up, propped him against her shoulder and walked. Ten miles.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010, the military flew Yvita and Eric and four other Haitians to Raleigh, N.C. One of the four was a patient who went to Wake Forest Baptist. Two others were patients, one with a young son, and the Louises came to the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center. One of the UNC patients was burned by chemicals at work, another when the quake tossed over a vending cart with hot oil.
They arrived wearing the same clothes they had on when the earthquake happened. They had not showered, hadn’t eaten a decent meal. How could they have? Their world – with its bathrooms, kitchens and beds – collapsed under the earthquake.
The Haiti earthquake was, still is, a global catastrophe. The three Haitians brought to the Triangle are lying in UNC’s burn center.
Yvita was eloquent. She wanted to tell her story so people knew their plight, and so that people who offer support know they are not doing so in vain. And to remind people that much of Haiti is still in ruins.
The burn center here is accustomed to treating catastrophes. Burns are immediate, yet they cause chronic problems. They aren’t contagious, yet they often fell more than one person. They’re not a disease of the young, or the old.
The burn team has to approach caring for the three patients we received differently than for most burns they treat. The wounds are old, and burns tend to burrow into tissue. The risk of infection is higher.
The patients are in pain. Bruce Cairns, M.D., director of the burn center, says “If you continue to be in pain you never get used to it. It actually gets worse and worse and worse,” Bruce Cairns
Sam Jones, M.D., assistant director of the burn center, told reporters on Tuesday that caring for these patients, especially, can be emotional. The aftermath of the catastrophe that hit them has been witnessed by the world in 1080 dpi.
All the Haitians are a world away from what they know, flown out of rubble and ruin to one of the most sophisticated medical centers in the world.
Cairns says it’s impossible to imagine what they’ve been through. About Eric and Yvita Louis, he says, “they are incredibly strong people.”
Eric Louis will be here at least six weeks, Jones says. The first order of business was to care for him and the other patients.
Next, says Cairns, is to care for Yvita, so that her smile truly reflects serenity.