Haitian Doctors Operate Makeshift Clinic From Their Home

Doctors began treating injured at their house just minutes after quake struck.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 17, 2010 — -- With few hospitals still functioning in rubble-strewn Port-au-Prince, options for medical care are scarce, so people are improvising.

High in the steep hills of the city, number 83 Rue Armand Holly has become a sanctuary. The couple who live there, both doctors, have found themselves running a makeshift clinic right out of their own home. Almost as soon as the ground stopped shaking, their neighbors came knocking.

"I see the first case like five minutes after," says Yolene Surena, a doctor who received her master's in public health in the United States. Her husband is a pediatrician and former health minister in Haiti.

Since Tuesday's quake, they think they've treated something like 300 people in their courtyard. An armchair taken outside acts as an operating table.

Many of the people they have treated have deep wounds, such as Claire Lydie. The 25-year-old nursing student was sitting in class when the roof collapsed. Surena's husband stitches closed the cut on Lydie's left leg with the last of the heavy grade sutures. They have only local anesthetic to give her, and she cries out in pain as people attempt to comfort her.

Family and friends have flown in from Miami to help, including Surena's niece, Alexa Louis. She's a financial analyst, not a doctor, but she's in Haiti to help any way she can. Their medical supplies quickly dwindling, they're using whatever they can find.

"People gave us their random medication," Louis said as she showed us several orange bottles of prescription medicine. Krazy Glue is being used to treat cuts and scrapes. "We close wounds with it if it's not so bad," she says of the super glue.

They have lost just six patients. Among them, a pregnant woman and her baby and a young woman with a few broken ribs.

"Everybody knows what to do about that. But I couldn't find [supplies]," Surena says. They were unable to find something large enough to stabilize the young woman's broken bones.

Doctor Tries to Save 'One More Life'

The most severely wounded are now being sent off to hospitals, but Surena can't be sure they'll get any better treatment there.

Volunteers check a three-month-old baby for injuries. Her house collapsed around her, but they think she'll be just fine.

While we're there, the clinic runs out of water. I offer several bottles of water from our crew's car, and they use it to mix formula for the baby.

Surena doesn't know how much longer they can keep going, but they'll keep treating people as long as they can. "Each time you get something to do further, you hope that you can save one more life," she says.

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