Earthquake Survivors Receive Lifesaving Care from UM Specialists in Haiti and Miami

Earthquake Survivors Receive Lifesaving Care from UM Specialists in Haiti and Miami

Earthquake Survivors Receive Lifesaving Care from UM Specialists in Haiti and Miami

As a Miller School medical team continues to work around the clock to save the lives of earthquake survivors in Haiti, University of Miami doctors are treating patients evacuated from the devastated country.

By noon Thursday, emergency personnel at the University of Miami/Jackson Ryder Trauma Center had admitted 11 patients injured in Haiti, a number that grew almost hourly as search-and-rescue teams began digging victims out of the incomprehensible rubble left in the wake of Tuesday’s catastrophic temblor.

The Ryder Trauma Center is coordinating with other South Florida medical centers, including Jackson North and South and University of Miami Hospital, to handle the anticipated flood of patients.

Among them was Christa Brelsford, a 25-year-old graduate student from Arizona State University who lost her foot under the weight of a collapsing building. She counts herself lucky.

“No other option,” a resilient Brelsford said from her bed at Ryder, where surgeons amputated her right foot. “I could be dead. There were so many times when I could have died.”

A Miller School team traveling on a donated private jet was among the first to arrive in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince Wednesday afternoon.

The plane returned to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Wednesday night with seven injured patients and three UM nursing students who were working with Project Medishare. The UM initiative is dedicated to improving the health of the Haitian people by establishing health services and infrastructure in communities.

Remaining behind in Haiti was the medical team led by Barth Green, M.D., professor and chairman of neurological surgery and co-founder of Project Medishare. Within five minutes of landing at the airport, Green’s team began treating critically wounded people, working desperately through the night.

“They are working in a provisional field hospital at the airport,” said Eduardo de Marchena, M.D., professor of medicine and surgery and associate dean for international medicine. “They’re sleeping on cots, eating what they can, and taking care of as many patients as they can.”

They were joined by more reinforcements today from UM, which will continue sending doctors and other volunteers, as well as medical supplies and equipment, to Haiti for what De Marchena called a “large and prolonged” effort. By Wednesday, more than 200 volunteers had signed up.

“Because of our longstanding engagement in Haiti, we feel a moral imperative to respond,” said Arthur Fournier, M.D., associate dean for community health and Project Medishare co-founder. “More importantly, we have infrastructure and working relationships in place that will make our response effective.”

It is clear, though, from the horrific images from Haiti that the scope of the work still to be done is eclipsed only by the breadth of the suffering of the Haitian people.

At the Ryder Center, Brelsford seemed more anguished about the misery she left behind in Haiti than she was about losing her foot. The grad student said she arrived in Haiti on January 2 to help her brother with a literacy project. They were in the second story of a house 12 miles south of the capital Tuesday when she thought a car had hit the building.

Quickly realizing it was an earthquake, she and her brother rushed downstairs. He made it out, she said, but she stumbled, and fell on the stairs. Her lower legs were crushed when the building collapsed.

After 30 minutes of digging, helpers pulled Brelsford out of the rubble, and rushed her by moped to a nearby city, where Sri Lankan peacekeepers treated her. She was later airlifted to Miami.

“I am so thankful to be alive,” she said. “And so terribly sorry for the people in Haiti who don’t have adequate medical care.”

To donate to the earthquake relief fund, please click here.

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