Somebody’s Somebody

I feel like I need to start with an apology! Usually at this point in a trip I have written at least once but it has been so very busy here in Port au Prince. We arrived Tuesday and our awesome team hit the ground running as they usually do. Long, long days but so worth it.

The nurses always bring it. Honestly, they have been absolutely incredible. And this trip we have a great combination of new and returning nurses from across the province… St. Anthony, Torbay, Whitbourne… many of them have never met before yet they gel immediately and it is seamless. Every nurse doing everything possible, whether that’s in the OR, in the ER, in pediatrics, wherever they can help. Everyone home should be so proud.

Each trip to Haiti is always unique and this one is no different. In fact, we have a Team Broken Earth first on this trip. We have a full family of medical professionals with us. The Pridham’s are a healthcare powerhouse! Dr. Jeremy Pridham is one of our founding members but together the family covers anesthesia, medicine, physiotherapy, as well as dentistry and logistics. It really fills us all with so much pride to watch them in action, I can only imagine how Jeremy feels.

The work is never-ending here. The patients have been non-stop and the clinic day saw massive numbers. We have more work than we can handle but will make sure we do as much as we can before handing the rest over to the next team. The model is sound. It’s working. We’re making a difference here and I allow myself just one moment of contentment. Just one. Because the reality is right outside these gates and it’s harsh. But you got to live in the doing when you’re here. Back at it.

Mid afternoon Thursday there was a sudden commotion outside the gate of the hospital. A car had lost control and struck several people. The team assembled on the roof to assess what was happening. There’s screaming and people gathering frantically yelling for help. Lucky, I thought, it happened literally adjacent to the hospital wall so we should be able to help this person. We quickly assemble a team. The patient is lifted by several men from the streets through the gate of the hospital and they place her on the courtyard ground, she looks to be 20 years old. Dr. Marshall takes the lead. Something is not right. There are flies everywhere, more than normal, circling the young girls head, and very little blood. She is dead.

I take her feet while others help with her head and body, which is heavy and lifeless. Trying to give her some dignity, we place her on a stretcher and take her to the morgue. It’s a dark cement locked area at the end of the courtyard. Before we roll her in we look through her personal belongings. There is an iPhone. As we’re holding it, someone is texting her. Not sure why but watching the texts come in punched me in the gut. Someone on the other end, a loved one, a friend, is texting not knowing that they will never hear her voice again. One of the team says, “she’s somebody’s somebody.” Staring at the iPhone, I had to wipe a tear. Like I said earlier, reality is right outside the gate. Harsher than we realize sometimes.

I don’t know her name. She was just some 20-something kid outside the hospital walking somewhere, maybe to meet with friends, see a boyfriend, you know, just living her life. In my line of work, in trauma, your life changes in milliseconds. No time for second chances. No time to reconsider. No time for last words. How different her life would be if she had taken a different turn, stopped for a Coke, or even stepped two steps to the left today. The randomness seems strikingly unfair. More so that this has nothing do with being in Haiti. This could’ve happened in St. John’s, in Toronto, in Hong Kong, anywhere.

The randomness of it. Her age. Makes you want to hug all your loved ones. Your own somebody. You just never know when they will not respond to your text.

All I can write for now.