The young boy who came into the ER with his father yesterday had
bandaged feet, head, and arm. Our only doctor on duty, at the largest
hospital in Haiti one week after the earthquake, asked me to remove
the bandages to see how he needed to proceed. I worked with a
Milwaukee fireman, and helped remove the bandages. The skin came off
with the bandage, and the smell was enough to make me dizzy. As I
lifted the leg for the fireman to remove more bandage, my fingers went
into the flesh like I was holding canned tuna fish. Other than
teaching about trench warfare during World War I, this was my first
experience with gangrene. I knew immediately that the leg would have
to be amputated, but I also wondered how the child was still alive.
The doctor explained to me that gangrene rots limbs of body, but that
it shuts off from the main torso. Basically, even with the poison,
the main body still survives. A sad part of this story was that had
he been in the USA this would be unheard of. Had he seen a doctor
three days earlier his future would include running. The saddest part
is that simply because he is Haitian his future is now greatly
limited, and not just by walking.
That young boy is a small reflection of Haiti today. Haiti has
Gangrene. Parts of this island are greatly infected, rotting, and
stinking. Parts that were they in North American society would not
exist. Yet, Haitians as a people are the main torso of the body that
wants to live and will live. That deep soul, creative imagination,
and brave approach to survival will keep these people wounded but
alive. Is there anything that I can do to make sure that other boys
will never lose their ability to run out of lack of care? Is there
anything that you can do? If so, lets work together as a world
community and make gangrene, both literally and figuratively, go away
If you have read the reflections on this blog throughout this past
week, you know that most places we have gone we were the first foreign
responders. We have been understaffed and constantly wondered why we
had yet to see other American doctors. Today, during the last hour of
our work I noticed a team of about 30 American medical personnel.
When I asked them what they were doing they told me they did not know.
They had been here in Haiti for the past week, but had been held in
the American embassy because of security threats. They had just been
allowed to leave the embassy an hour earlier. Who were these threats
that kept them locked up during perhaps the greatest medical need in
recent history. I doubt they were the numerous Haitians who have
given our team rides in their personal cars, or freely offered to
transport wounded to the hospital. Since that is unlikely, maybe it
was the young boy I mentioned above. I wonder what the administrator
who made the call to withhold American aid would give as an answer?
Brother Jim Boynton, S.J.