Earthquake Victims Get Medical Attention in Dominican Republic

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With millions of Haitians injured by the earthquake and its aftershocks, hospitals in Port-au-Prince are overcrowded. Many Haitians have been crossing the border into Jimani, Dominican Republic for medical attention.

A relief organization from New York identified the need for medical supplies in the hospital there and with the help of two enthusiastic pilots in our area and one of their private planes, CitiHope International was able to bring down $375,000 of medical supplies, everything from bandages to medication.

When the group arrived at the airport in Barahona, Dominican Republic, a list had to be made of everything CitiHope packed into the boxes,
before it could be unloaded from the plane to be transported to the hospital.

The easy part is getting supplies to donate. The hard part is getting it there.

It was a rocky and winding hour and a half drive through the neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic before finally arriving at the Jimani hospital.

Haitians have long been coming to the Dominican Republic for medical care, but the amount of people since the earthquake has been overwhelming.

The hospital primarily has about 30 hospital beds, but over the past week, they've been seeing as many as 150 patients per day.

Hundreds of men, women and children now flood the rooms, concrete patios and grassy areas...some laying only on a blanket or a mattress pad.

With relief missions from around the world coming to aid these victims, the president of CitiHope says organization is crucial.

"There's a tremendous amount of coordination that needs to take place here at the Jimani hospital, that's one of the reasons we identified and wanted to work with so many professionals that are coordinating the effort and being very clear about what it is they need," says Reverend Paul Moore, president and CEO of CitiHope International.

Not only has the hospital run out of many medical supplies, they don't have an x-ray machine, making it nearly impossible to know when to operate.

"Typically we go to sites that have operating facilities, have sterilizers, have some sort of x-ray within the hospital that would allow us to complete the next level of orthopedic care. The last week has been initial treatment of trauma victims," says Dr. Gus Gialamas, with Operation Rainbow.

"We're seeing a huge number of compound fractures, exposed fractures, virtually all of those are infected, so all those people are requiring amputations," adds Dr. Brian Logan, chief doctor at the hospital.

One man was found three days after the earthquake under a tanker, and had lost too much blood to be able to keep his leg.

"This guy seems to be just happy to be alive even without one leg," says a translator about one of the victims.

Having delivered relief to more than 40 countries in the past, Paul says it's crucial to keep up on aid long after the disaster.

"The initial outburst of disease or problems or trauma is just the tip of the iceberg. What happens when cholera, dysentery, and all these other things break out, it's a much larger scaled crisis, and my fear is that as the national interest might decrease as crisis abates, we might forget that long term needs are significant and substantial," adds Moore.

The Dominican Republic also suffered an earthquake with a magnitude of 7-point-1 back in September of 2003. Only one man died, as a result of a trauma induced heart attack.

The difference in death tolls between that quake and Haiti's come down to two factors: it was in the middle of the night, and the buildings in the Dominican Republic have a higher code of infrastructure.

Locals say the country has had 400 aftershocks since that 2003 earthquake, but did not suffer the devastation that Haiti is facing right now.

Thanks to Wilson Carraway, CEO of Farmers and Merchants Bank, for the use of his private plane, his co-pilot Don Shreve, and Drew Mitchell for their help with this trip.

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