News : 2010 : May

Devastation after the Haiti Earthquake: A Neurosurgeon’s Journal

The Journal of World Neurosurgery
5.2010

by Michael Y. Wang, M.D.

On January 12, 2010 a 7.0-Mw earthquake struck Port au Prince, Haiti. The devastation, obvious from media footage, was unparalleled in recent history. An estimated 194,000 Haitians were killed, and roughly 200,000 were injured. In the weeks following the quake a massive international effort was mobilized to assist the nation of Haiti.

WEEK 1

Within 24 hours of the incident, neurosurgeons arrived in Port au Prince to provide medical care and assistance. Barth A. Green, M.D., chairman of Neurosurgery at the University of Miami, led one of these efforts as he has had a long-standing program to provide medical care in the impoverished nation: Project Medishare, a nonprofit international aid organization at the University of Miami.

A 300-bed tent medical campus was quickly erected and opened to accept patients from the temporary United Nations (UN) medical compound. The facility was immediately filled to capacity, with one tent housing a surgical suite equipped with four operating rooms and connected to a 75-bed pediatric ward. A second tent housed the adult hospital, consisting of 225 beds (Figures 2 and 3). Volunteers, including doctors, nurses, therapists, and engineers flew from the Project MedishareCommandCenter in Miami on chartered flights tstaff this new facility.

Dr. Green was joined by John Ragheb, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon who had been performing third ventriculostomies to treat hydrocephalus in Haiti for years. Allan Levi, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Miami Spine Program, and Ian Armstrong, M.D., a neurosurgeon from California, did triage and began treating the numerous spinal cord and head injured patients in an area of the hospital, which is to become a new specialized unit.

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