Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remembering Haiti

Carrefour, Haiti-

On January 12th, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rattled the island nation of Haiti. In the subsequent days the island continued to shake with 52 aftershocks of 4.5 (or greater). All essential services were immediately lost and an estimated 3 million people found themselves in the dark without medical services to treat the sick and injured.

Lance with some of the local Haitian children.
Immediately after the quake Fire Engineer-Paramedic Lance Buford knew he wanted to help, so he made contact with an organization UM/Medishare that was providing continued medical assistance near the epicenter in Carrefour, Haiti. But Lance faced a very expensive trip to the island as all costs came out of his pocket, and he would need to arrange for time off to make the trip.

Lance holds one of Haiti's smallest victims.
Fortunately the Lakeside Firefighters Association stepped in with a monetary donation to get him on his way. So some three months after the initial disaster Lance found himself on a Delta jet winging his way to an environment that would prove emotionally, and physically trying.

Assigned to a field hospital Lance would be working with a team of two doctors and four nurses (Lance would be the sole paramedic). The hospital continued to treat those hurt in the initial quake, but additionally they would treat those suffering from ailments and everyday medical needs. About 250 patients would make the trip to the hospital each day for treatment of everything from child birth to those struck by lightning. But the vast majority were suffering from profound dehydration. This overwhelming case load would continue throughout his 17 day deployment to the island.

Upon returning to the states Lance set out on a effort to return to Haiti, but it was not to be. With teams returning, and the expenses related to the first trip, he never made the return visit. But as Lance looks back he continues to have a great deal of pride from the team's accomplishments.

Estimates of the death toll range from 46,000 to 85,000 victims. It's estimated that today a half million Haitians still have no permanent residence.  

Story By: Fire Captain Mark Grow, Lakeside Fire Protection District
Photos By: Fire Engineer/Paramedic Lance Buford, Lakeside Fire Protection District

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