Emergency Information Take Over

School of Medicine Physician Returns to Haiti to Find Family Members and Assist Victims of Devastating Earthquake

Thursday, January 21, 2010

 Dr. Delva (in white tee shirt) is part of the CRS relief effort in Haiti.

The Institute of Human Virology and Catholic Relief Services Join Forces to Help

The staff at the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are helping to treat the earthquake victims in Haiti.

Guesly Delva, MD, an infectious-disease fellow with IHV, is working with the institute's affiliate, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), at St. Francois de Sales, one of Haiti's oldest hospitals.

CRS staff went to St. Francois, choosing it because of an existing relationship in serving AIDSRelief patients. The hospital was nearly 70 percent destroyed and almost completely out of supplies. Doctors and others dug through rubble with hammer and handsaw to try to find medical supplies.

Doctors were able to drag a refrigerator out of the rubble and are trying to start a blood bank, with blood from the United Nations. CRS managed to get packaged meals for the doctors, and food, water and fuel for the hospital. It recruited volunteers and procured an ambulance.

Most importantly, it delivered medical and other supplies from various sources in the Dominican Republic. The result: three operating rooms are up and running. The first operation was Sunday. There were eight on Monday. These are conducted by three medical teams, one Haitian, one Belgian, and one Italian.

Dr. Delva arrived at the hospital on Wednesday and plunged in. "He came in, and he is helping and treating people right now. The guy is amazing," says Lane Hartill of the CRS staff.

Dr. Delva, who is a native of Gonaives, about 100 miles north of the capital, has lived in the United States for about 15 years. He studied pediatrics and internal medicine at Tulane University.

"It was dreadful coming here because of what I was seeing on TV," he says. "I broke down the first night." After looking at the city and working with patients, he says: "I feel a sense of desperation."

Dr. Delva was interviewed in The Baltimore Sun before learning that his family members had survived. On Tuesday, Jan. 19, he left to join his relatives in Haiti and to assist in the relief operations.

"There's so much to do," he says. "I know probably we're not going to have enough time or resources to relive all of the pain or suffering."

Doctors are cleaning bad burns, attending to major wounds and performing many amputations. They are focusing on people in critical states who could die within 24 hours - that includes people who aren't getting treated in other clinics around the city of Port-au-Prince, says Hartill.

CRS is looking for a tent for a fourth operating room. The hospital is not taking people off the street, but referrals who need operations. The most common procedure involves limb amputations and broken bone issues, Hartill says. Late Wednesday there was a waiting list of 13 people.

Once the medical outreach facilities are set up, doctors at those will be sending the most critical patients. St. Francois is a reference hospital for the entire country, serving as the University Hospital, Nursing School and Laboratory School of the Catholic University of Notre Dame. Its mission is to provide free care and treatment for the poor.

The IHV worked with its affiliate, CRS, to locate all of its colleagues in Port-au-Prince. The institute also confirmed the IHV offices were still standing.

The team is part of the $120 million AIDSRelief project that runs through 2013 and is funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. IHV clinical staff provide technical expertise in training local physicians and nurses in HIV/AIDS care and treatment. The IHV partners with Catholic Relief Services headquartered in Baltimore.

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