The Daily Need

Amputees in a country without paved roads or sidewalks

by Brent Renaud

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the earthquake in Haiti. My brother Craig and I had been in Port-au-Prince the previous November reporting for The New York Times; when the earthquake hit we rushed back down. In the two weeks after the disaster, we were shocked to see how many young kids were having limbs amputated in make-shift hospitals. Haitian buildings were not made to withstand an earthquake and they collapsed at an astonishing rate; because kids are so small and resilient many of them survived the impact, but with severe crush wounds. We decided to follow two of these kids for a story that will appear on Need to Know this Friday, January 14.

A little girl with a head injury awaits the helicopter that will take her from Port-au-Prince to the USNS Comfort Hospital ship. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

A little girl with a head injury awaits the helicopter that will take her from Port-au-Prince to the USNS Comfort Hospital ship. Photo: Brent Renaud

David Louisa eating with his father in a Haitian Hospital waiting to leave for treatment in the US. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

David Louisa eating with his father in a Haitian Hospital waiting to leave for treatment in the US. Photo: Brent Renaud

One of thousands of amputee children orphaned by the quake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

One of thousands of amputee children orphaned by the quake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Brent Renaud

Gedline Agard stands for the first time since suffering a spinal injury in the earthquake that left her unable to walk. Partners in Health sponsored her rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

Gedline Agard stands for the first time since suffering a spinal injury in the earthquake that left her unable to walk. Partners in Health sponsored her rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Photo: Brent Renaud

US Navy personnel unload a woman who was injured in the earthquake after having received treatment aboard the USNS Comfort Hospital ship. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

US Navy personnel unload a woman who was injured in the earthquake after having received treatment aboard the USNS Comfort Hospital ship. Photo: Brent Renaud

Brent Renaud filming in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

Brent Renaud filming in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Craig Renaud filming with UN soldiers in the slums of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Brent Renaud

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

Craig Renaud filming with UN soldiers in the slums of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Brent Renaud

David Louisa and Brent Renaud at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass., where David was fitted for his prosthetic limbs.

Treatment for Haitian Amputees 

David Louisa and Brent Renaud at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass., where David was fitted for his prosthetic limbs.

David Louisa and Gedline Agard both survived three days buried in the rubble. Ten-year-old David eventually lost an arm and a leg; Gedline had a spinal injury that left her unable to walk. We followed them as they received treatment from the U.S. Navy in Port-au-Prince and were then released into badly overburdened Haitian hospitals. Eventually, these two lucked out and were sponsored by the nonprofit group Partners in Health to come to Boston, where doctors believed they could help both kids walk again.

The earthquake in Haiti is thought to have caused more amputations than any other single event in history. For these amputees, survival is just the beginning of the struggle. Most hospitals in Haiti have no rehabilitation department of any kind. And the ones that do are out of the financial reach of the vast majority of people. Partners in Health and other organizations are working to provide rehabilitation facilities and post-amputation care for the tens of thousands in need, but they are up against huge obstacles.

In the coming years, the injured in Haiti will likely have to negotiate a city without sidewalks, with roads that are not paved and a complete lack of handicap facilities nationwide. Marjorie Curran, a doctor with Partners in Health who worked in Haiti, asked me to make sure people do not forget that this is only the beginning for these kids. Haitian society will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. In the meantime, Haitians will do as they have been doing for decades — surviving in conditions most of us cannot even imagine.

 
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Comments

  • Cstorey

    Can’t wait see your amazing work! Great running into in NOLA! Sorry we didn’t hook up…it was a wild few days!!!