Dr. Sanjay Gupta | BIO
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
Program Note: Six months after the earthquake in Haiti, are things any better? Anderson Cooper returns to Haiti with exclusive interviews with former President Bill Clinton and actor Sean Penn. Don't miss 'AC360' tonight at 10 ET, only on CNN.
It was hard to know what to expect a half-year after the Haiti earthquakes. Driving through the town of Port Au Prince a few days ago, rubble seemed to have been merely swept off the streets, and into alleyways. Debris and garbage had simply shifted around the city, more out of sight, but still present. It was like a college kid, knowing his parents were coming to visit, sweeping things under the rug and throwing things into closets. Things were frighteningly familiar.
I looked out the window, expecting to see the most awful and indelible images that I remembered during the first days after the earthquake. The bodies stacked high, in front of homes with parents searching frantically for a place for their dead children. At that time, children were seen everywhere, doing the same for their deceased parents. Thankfully, those images are for the most part gone.
Editor's Note: The video below was shot in Bernard Mevs Hospital in Haiti.
In medicine, we think of things in the acute phase: stop the bleeding. The intermediate phase: recovery and follow up. And, in the chronic phase, it is about rehabilitation and building up. The acute phase is coming to an end, but without adequate resources and money, the intermediate phase will never happen. Talking to large relief organizations, it seems they are planning for the long-term chronic rehabilitation of the country, which may explain why only a small percentage of the money donated has actually been put to use. (see the breakdown here by organization). The concern, though, is that rehabilitation cannot happen, unless the resources are there to let the patients, and the country adequately recover.
For a while, there was a venting of compassion. At General hospital, the largest public hospital in Haiti, there was at one point too many doctors and too many supplies. People saw the need, and they opened their pocket books and booked their flights. I was often asked, "what can I do to help?" I said "wait 6 months, because too many people will forget, yet the need will still be there." When I visited General hospital yesterday, there was hardly anything happening there. The operating tables that were donated looked desolate, and the rooms were empty. A handful of diligent Haitian nurses, who haven't been paid in months, were trying to do the best they could with hardly any resources.
The largest private hospital in the city, which serviced the small percentage of Haitians that could pay for their health care, has chains on the doors and is shut down for business. Six months later, the need is still here, and in many ways, things are worse than ever.
It is true that clean water now exists in many places, and the predicted widespread outbreak of disease hasn't happened. There are food distribution stations in many of the larger camps, and even schools that are starting up this summer. It is also true that many amputees are now walking around the rough roads of Port Au Prince with newly obtained prosthetic legs. But, too much has remained the same.
I saw a 6 month old girl, born just before the earthquake, who lay dying at Bernard Mevs hospital. She developed an infection, that untreated, turned into meningitis. Her head became large, as fluid had started to build up inside her brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus. She didn't receive antibiotics in time, and now she was beyond treatment. The same stupid story. Six months later. Needless deaths, despite the generosity of millions all over the world.
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