Haiti: On the Edge as Cholera Spreads

Haiti is now on edge and there is an air of panic. Everyone now knows about Cholera from the radio. At St. Damien's hospital where I work we have a steady stream of patients coming in. They all believe they have cholera some just have diarrhea or vomiting, but we must treat them all as if they are infected. There are a lot of rumors and misinformation flying around. We have set up an emergency cholera area behind the hospital that is isolated. It is clean and we have 400 cots at the ready. We have been taking patients to Doctors without Borders who has set up a number of cholera camps throughout the city but these camps are now full. The NGO community is mobilized. Three days ago we received our first patients. There are 40 now, we have already treated hundreds and we have lost 20; it is increasing by the hour.

This morning Diona came to our hospital in the back of a car with her brother and sister. She got severe diarrhea at 1 a.m. this morning and she spent hours getting turned away from different hospitals because they didn't want to be contaminated. All she needed was an IV. By the time we took her in it was too late. At 5:30 a.m. this morning she was dead. Her brother and sister in disbelief. I tried to console them as best I could but what could I say. Sadly this is happening all over Haiti. Some walking hours carrying their dying children only to be turned away for not having two dollars to pay for the IV. Its not the time for blame but all signs seem to point to the reckless dumping of waste in the Artibonite river. It is exactly this kind of disregard for the environment that allows for cholera to thrive. It is truly a terrible thing to hold children as they die simply because of in access to clean water. This plague will get much worse before it gets better and is a stark reminder that we must take greater care of our environment to prevent disasters like this. Haiti is an extraordinary place; unique in its passion, beauty and joy and this is the last thing we need here.

Working with cholera patients is a heartbreaking task. Within days the cholera turns a healthy strong person into a frail frightened bag of bones with uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea.

Dionas case is troubling since most cases in Port-au-Prince the victims came from the contaminated area. Diona never left Port-au-Prince meaning she contracted cholera in the capital, we now know cholera is everywhere in the capital.

We have a 1-year-old baby named Emmanuelle in the center him and his mother both with cholera. Last night I stayed with them trying to give comfort and help them sleep as the IV took hold. There is a look for cholera as distinct as the death rattle, I can see it immediately; sunken rolled back eyes and lethargy last night the look of absolute fear and confusion on Emmanuelle's face as he cried and held his mother is an image I will never shake.

Keep watching Haiti and continue to support us, as election draw near and violence escalates these are fragile times. We are working around the clock and fear this may be a greater disaster then even the earthquake was.