Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Pediatrician and Mother, Dr. Wu Gives Her All to Help the Children of Haiti

Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Betty Wu has tears in her eyes while talking about one of her patients she couldn't save. "It was a six-year-old girl, severely injured during the earthquake. She came too late to us," she says. The girl was admitted to the USNS Comfort only a few days ago and died Wednesday night. "We tried everything, everything."

Dr. Wu has volunteered before, many times, including in Haiti. The 39-year-old pediatric emergency physician from Children's Hospital and Clinics in Minneapolis has seen much as a volunteer--the catastrophic 2004 Tsunami and the 2010 Haitian earthquake are just two of the natural disasters where Dr. Wu has volunteered her medical expertise to help. Still, there is much sadness in her voice when she speaks about this one young patient.

"What was especially tragic about this case is that the parents were not brought on board," she says. "Usually at least one parent accompanies the child to the Comfort, but the transferring hospital only brought the child. The Navy staff made sure to bring the dad on board the next day. I met him to tell him personally that his daughter was cared for."

Dr. Wu explains how important it is to have the parents nearby when a medical team tries to save their child's life Studies have shown, she says, that it is very beneficial for parents if they can watch how hard doctors and nurses work for the survival of a patient.

Dr. Wu takes care of incoming patients, especially the children, in the causalities and receiving unit of the USNS Comfort. Once the patients are admitted she follows up with them in the pediatric ward to make sure their treatment goes well.

After her 12-hour shifts she often spends a few moments online to send emails to her husband, a pilot for the Minnesota National Guard, or to watch a little video sent from home showing her two-year-old daughter.

"It was a little bit more difficult this time to sign up to volunteer because I had to leave her," she says.

This morning the parents of the young girl that died on the USNS Comfort waited at Killick Point, the Haitian Coast Guard headquarters in Port-au Prince, that was before the earthquake struck Haiti. Today, Killick Point is a crowded place with tents set up between buildings, some of them completely destroyed during the quake, others still standing. It is filled with international aid workers and military personnel from around the world.

Killick Point is a receiving place for patients, some of them are transferred from here to the USNS Comfort, others brought back from the ship.

In the middle of all of this the mother and father of the young girl wait for their daughter to arrive. Next to them on the ground is a small white coffin, on it a small red cross. Within an hour the body of their young child arrives and soon the family has left.

Check back tomorrow for Dr. Jose Irazuzta's observations of Killick Point.

Help HOPE provide long-term medical relief efforts in Haiti. DONATE NOW

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and photojournalist Astrid Riecken

1 comment:

  1. Good Job Project Hope. I was there and I have seen the hard work. Ms. Astrid, the stories are awesome. Georges McNally