Friday, February 12, 2010

Pediatrician Using Her Skills In Haiti

Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Marjorie Curran, 47, works as a pediatrician for the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children which is part of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. For twenty years the mother of three boys, age 11, 15 and 18, has worked for the hospital. She is married to a Mass. Gen. Radiologist. "I started as an intern and never left," she says.

When the earthquake struck Haiti, Marjorie signed up as a first-time volunteer. "I thought my set of skills would be of use," she says.

Over the last ten days she has seen and heard many heartbreaking stories.

"We had a baby in our unit who survived because his mother covered him with her body when the house in which they were in collapsed. The mother died," she says.

When the child arrived on the USNS Comfort, Marjorie saw that the young child was also suffering from malnutrition, which, according to many physicians who treat children on the hospital ship, is common in Haiti. "We fed him for two weeks and finally could send him home with his aunt. He actually looked like a real baby when he left," Marjorie says.

According to UNICEF, Haiti has the Western Hemisphere's highest birth rate, highest child and maternal mortality rates and highest malnutrition rate. Forty-seven percent of the tiny Caribbean country's population of nine million is under age 18.

"Then there is Dave," the pediatrician continues "he was buried in the rubble for three days."

While being transferred to the Comfort, the 7-year-old boy told one of the translators that he had the telephone number of his father on him.

"We called the number and reached his father and brought him to the ship," Marjorie says. "Before the father was brought to see his son I talked to him and showed him the photographs we had taken of his son's injuries. We tried to prepare the father since Dave was badly injured," she says. "But he didn't pay much attention. He was so happy his son was still alive."

Dave lost his right arm and right leg during the earthquake. His nose was almost entirely ripped off his face. The boy also suffered from additional head injuries. Today his condition has greatly improved and his nose has been gradually reconstructed.

"Dave is an example of what will be needed most in Haiti for the next months to come," Marjorie says, "which is prosthetics, many, many of them."

Since the earthquake, more than 4,000 amputees have been counted in Haiti.

"Haiti also needs clean water, sanitation, housing, education," says Marjorie. "The average life expectancy in Haiti is 44. I hope the international relief effort is not fading. It will take years to rebuild this country and make it a healthy nation."

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

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and photojournalist Astrid Riecken

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