It was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary week for Kerr and her husband, Dr. Mark Hauswald, who are in Haiti taking care of the injured and homeless as part of the New Mexico Disaster Assistance Medical Team (DMAT.)
In an email dated February 18, Kerr wrote: “We are very busy, still seeing quake cases. Saw 170 patients yesterday. Heavy rain causing problems. Very hot, humid, rampant mosquitoes. Took care of eight victims of rollover accident last night.”
Doctors Kerr and Hauswald, an obstetrician and emergency doctor, respectively, were summoned by their home state’s DMAT team two weeks ago, and within a few short days were on their way to disaster-stricken Haiti. Both are disaster medicine-trained, having been members of New Mexico’s DMAT for over a decade, but neither had ever been dispatched to a disaster.
Earlier in the week, Kerr was able to phone The Watch for an update on their work so far. She said that while the Port-au-Prince field hospital they were working out of was in the process of transitioning from an emergent care facility to more of an outpatient care clinic, its doctors were still seeing a huge volume of injuries and illnesses requiring emergency attention, with gunshot wounds and dehydration a recurring sight.
Three days later, Kerr called again with another update, reporting that while “things have calmed down a bit,” the team’s doctors were still seeing a number of trauma cases daily.
“We were just sitting here after finishing dinner tonight, and in walked a patient with a gunshot wound,” she said.
Kerr, whose focus has been mainly on pregnant women and newborns, says the biggest problem are women going into premature labor, a problem exacerbated by things like dehydration and infection.
“I’m just trying to keep people out of premature labor, or those who have had miscarriages from bleeding out,” she said. She has access to an old ultrasound machine, which has let her deliver good news to many women concerned about the health of their unborn babies. Kerr admits, however, that she’s concerned about many of the women she has seen, and the difficult living conditions they’ll have to face for the rest of their pregnancies and while starting life with their newborns.
She saw a patient early on in the trip, a mother of three who had gone into premature labor. While she was able to halt the woman’s labor, she was apprehensive about sending the woman on her way. “They’re living out in the open right now,” she said. “If she has that baby now, out in the open with the rains starting…” Kerr trailed off. “I’m just really hoping they’ll be able to find shelter before that baby comes.”
The biggest need Kerr sees for the displaced people of Haiti is shelter, especially now that the seasonal rains are starting to flood the tarp cities hastily erected immediately following the earthquake on January 12. She urges people to donate to the Telluride Rotary Club, which earlier this month sent Shelter Boxes to Haiti including tents able to withstand the rain.
“People really don’t have anyplace to stay; they’re just out in the open air right now. The more people can donate to get tents down here, the better. They could use hundreds more,” Kerr said, noting that en route to the field hospital where they are stationed, they saw an encampment of Rotary tents (each tent donated by Rotary International through the Shelter Box company is marked with the Rotary symbol.) “That was like the premier place, compared to the 500 or so people living just adjacent to us under tarps and cardboard,” she said.
Telluride Rotarian and club president Jerry Grandey reports that the local club has already sent two Shelter Boxes to Haiti and hoes to send more. Each Shelter Box includes one ten-person tent (with dividers for four discrete living spaces); survival equipment, like mosquito nets and water purification systems, a stove and cooking utensils, tools like an axe, hammer, shovel and wire cutters, and comfort items like kids’ coloring books and blankets. (Visit www.shelterbox.org.) The boxes cost $1,000 apiece, which includes delivery to Haiti. Rotary International’s Disaster Relief Rotary Action Group organized the delivery of 3,000 Shelter Boxes within three days of the earthquake, and is in the process of bringing more to homeless families before the springtime rains drench the country.
Telluride Rotary is also raising funds to donate two Aquaboxes, water purification systems that can provide up to four months of clean drinking water for a family of four.
Those wishing to donate to the Telluride Rotary’s Haiti disaster relief fund can mail checks made out to Telluride Rotary Foundation (write “Haiti” in the memo line) to P.O. Box 1265, Telluride CO 81435, or drop off checks at Maggie’s Bakery in Telluride.
Kerr urges anyone who can donate to do so. “Things are still very rough here. They still need everyone’s help,” she said.
The couple, who are part-time residents of Telluride, expect to return to the U.S. this week. See next week’s edition of the Watch for more.