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Saturday 26th May 2018

Mass amputations in Haiti

19th January 2010

Thousands of people in Haiti are now depending upon amputations in order to survive.


The earthquake ruined the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed approximately 200,000 people.

There are innumerable injured survivors, and doctors will need to amputate their infected limbs in order for them to survive.

Jacques Lorblanches, a French doctor working with a relief team called Doctors of the World, said that he had never seen anything like the situation doctors were facing.

He said that he had used a flashlight to illuminate his first amputation, and that he had performed the operation entirely without water, using only three forceps, five scissors, and a scalpel.

Out of 30 operations performed by the French team, 28 ended in amputation.

Amit Assa, who works in a field hospital set up by an Israeli team, said that almost all of the 48 operations her team performed over the past two days had been amputations.

Many of the doctors are reminded of war conditions by the rapid triage they are being forced to perform on the injured Haitians.

Because medical equipment arrived late, the wounded have had to be sorted, giving preference to the critically injured who can be saved.

Marie-Francoise, whose left arm has been amputated, spent hours trapped before she was rescued.

She said she felt happy because she was alive, but that she does not dare to think about her future.

Hans Van Dillen is the head of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) mission in Haiti.

His team is conducting about 100 surgeries per day with minimal equipment.

He said that there was gangrene everywhere and that amputations were performed in quick succession.

He said that, if someone had already waited six days, they would receive radical surgery as a last resort, and that his team was completely overwhelmed in treating casualties such as skull fractures, severe burns, and open wounds.

When the medical teams have done all that they can currently do for the survivors of the earthquake, life will be even more difficult than before for the poverty-stricken inhabitants of Port-au-Prince.

US officials are worried that the worsening conditions on the island could mean that many Haitians try to reach the Florida coast by boat, and helicopter pilots are broadcasting a loudspeaker message in Haitian creole that aims to discourage the island's inhabitants from trying to enter the US illegally.

In order to be absolutely sure that no Haitians enter the US illegally, the coast guard has sent five boats to patrol the waters around Haiti.

While many Haitians have tried to apply for visas on humanitarian grounds for medical treatment in the US, only 23 have been granted them.

William O’Neill, dean of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, whose team worked in a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, said that US bureaucracy was at its worst for denying visas to injured Haitians, calling the practice 'beyond insane.'


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