Sources: HCJB Global, Baptist Haiti Mission, World Gospel Mission, Associated Press, BBC (written by Ralph Kurtenbach and Harold Goerzen)
A 5.9-strength aftershock early Wednesday, collapsing already-damaged buildings, but the HCJB Global Hands emergency medical team working at the Baptist Haiti Mission (BHM) hospital in Port-au-Prince reported they're all fine.
The seven-member team continues working 12-hour surgical shifts, treating those injured in the Jan. 12 quake that devastated Haiti's capital.
The powerful aftershock, centered about 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, sent Haitians screaming into the streets, collapsing buildings, cracking roads and adding to the trauma of a nation stunned by an apocalyptic quake eight days ago. At least one woman, traumatized by the aftershock, died of a heart attack in Port-au-Prince. The jolt matched the strongest of the tremors since the original 7.0-magnitude quake.
The multi-specialty team, working in conjunction with Samaritan's Purse, a North Carolina-based Christian aid group, arrived Friday, Jan. 15, from Ecuador. While two surgeons, an anesthesiologist, a nurse and two family physicians have worked at the hospital with the BHM staff, water engineer Martin Harrison set up a Water Missions International (WMI) filtration plant that is now chlorinating pond water for use at the hospital compound.
"Supplies are now improving as the WMI unit produces 10,000 gallons of drinking water per day at full output," Harrison said. "We are taking water from a fishpond of all places, passing this through the WMI water filter and filling a cistern beneath the hospital."
Family physician Steve Nelson said the team is giving priority to the most severe cases. "We non-surgical types were out on the floors trying to triage which cases were most likely to get complicated if left longer," he explained. "Sepsis, infected compound fractures and little kids made up our priority list." With more complicated cases, the surgical workers totaled 15 operations in one day, finishing after midnight.
"They are not seeing any simple breaks or fractures," Krys Baker, the hospital administrator, said of the surgical teams. "Many bones are crushed, making surgeries very difficult. They are also seeing a lot of infections. Many people have waited to come to the hospital and as a result they are having to do amputations." Infectious diseases have not shown up yet, according to a BBC report, but tetanus and gangrene are a threat to the injured.
Several days after HCJB Global's team arrived, another 17 physicians and nurses arrived from Samaritan's Purse. Upon staffing a second operating room, the 100-bed hospital can now treat more injured Haitians.
In spite of limitations on fuel, water and Internet connection, the team members' contact with their families in Ecuador has been constant. Missionary Kim Barton said from Shell, Ecuador, that her husband, Paul, "mentioned the aftershock because it woke him up. He was calling to try to find more tetanus [vaccine]." The Bartons serve at HCJB Global's jungle hospital in Shell where Paul is an anesthesiologist and his wife, Kim, is a pediatrician.
Also from the Shell hospital, German surgeon Eckehart Wolff lay on a surgery table to donate his own blood to a patient named Alexis who was suffering from severe internal abdominal bleeding. "The lady was stable this morning; however, sadly, she died this afternoon. She must have been crushed by something in the quake," said Harrison.
There is joy amid such suffering, Nelson said, recounting how family physician Marcos Nelson's patient, a young girl, began to sing even as the physician cleaned her wound. Anesthetized from pain but still conscious, the girl had a wound that revealed something serious enough for her to be placed first on the list for the next morning.
"Then we all heard her start singing," Steve Nelson related, "first in sort of a low voice and later stronger ... and it seemed happier! It was in Creole, so of course none of the Spanish and English speakers could know what she was saying ... but a translator brightened up nearby and said she is singing, 'I am saved, I am saved, I am saved!'"
The aftershock also rattled the nerves of people at partner ministry Radio Lumière, which only suffered minor damage in the original quake, although three of the staff members were killed while they were away from the station.
"Everyone there was OK [following the aftershock]," said Timothy Rickel, vice president of communication at World Gospel Mission (WGM). "Most people are sleeping outdoors anyway."
WGM engineer Paul Shingledecker helped put the station back on the air Sunday, Jan. 17, enabling the Radio Lumière to aid in communications and send out a message of hope to beleaguered Haitians.
"There is no city power, and it will be some time before there will be any," Shingledecker added. "I've seen lines down all over the city, including major high-tension lines. The station is entirely dependent on back-up generators. Some diesel is available, though not a lot yet. But money to buy it is the major factor."
A call to Radio Lumière's satellite service produced wider bandwidth for the station to stream audio on the Internet. "This is a major praise," said Rickel.
An HCJB Global engineer and others working at Radio Lumière when the Jan. 12 quake struck decided to "ride out the earthquake in the building," according to David Russell who heads the HCJB Global Technology Center in Indiana.
Alan Good had traveled to Haiti on Jan. 6 to work on the station's FM, Stereo 92. "He spent two nights there following the quake, awaiting news from his Haitian host family," Russell said. "It turned out that they also escaped injury."
With help from a Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot, Good re-established contact with Russell and was flown back to the U.S. on Sunday.