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Spring 2014
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Our Man in Haiti
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“There were hundreds of injured people, with broken arms and legs and other extensive traumatic and crush injuries, some with amputated limbs, some with open wounds, scattered everywhere in a large yard inside the hospital perimeter,” he remembers. “People were lying everywhere. Dead bodies were everywhere. Many of the patients were housed under tents, and some were lying on beds, but others were just resting on bedsheets, mats, or mattresses on the ground.”

The desperation was palpable. “They would reach out to you as you walked by, grabbing at anyone who looked like they could help—crying out for medical attention, for relief from pain. Many were hungry and thirsty.”

Charles took a moment to absorb the situation. (“It takes a few minutes,” he says. “It seems unreal. Your mind is not ready to see it.”) Then he took action.

His primary mission, it turned out, would not be clinical. It would be organizational. Surgeons were feverishly working in five rudimentary operating rooms to address injuries before infection could set in—and, in many cases, dealing with the effects of infection.

All of the clinicians on site agreed that it was crucial to establish a post-op unit to receive the rapid stream of surgical patients. Charles volunteered to be administrator of what the surgeons would come to call the “post-op/ICU.”

When they started, there was no system. There were no beds. There was only a debris-strewn room located in a hospital building that had survived the quake and been deemed safe. Armed with supplies donated by the international community and a shipment of light, portable, aluminum beds from a Norwegian relief group, Charles and his team cleaned the space to set up the unit. Then they split into two 12-hour shifts.

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