Students offer aid in Haiti
Assistant Multimedia Editor
After working through the night shift, AJ Meissgeier found her in the courtyard around 10 a.m.
She had been fortunate to survive being impaled by correlated tin. Emergency gastrointestinal surgery in the mountains, that removed more than a foot of large intestine and part of her stomach, saved her life. She walked for two weeks with a bilateral broken pelvis to a hospital in Port-au-Prince. She waited there in the heat for two days until Meissgeier found her.
This was only one of many inspiring moments that Meissgeier and Eugene Bednov experienced in their recent trip to Haiti.
VCU students Meissgeier and Bednov recently traveled to work in a Port-au-Prince hospital, offering medical assistance to victims of the earthquake that destroyed much of the country.
Meissgeier and Bednov got the opportunity to travel to Haiti on Jan. 28 through Airline Ambassadors, a nonprofit organization providing airfare for medical personnel to Third World countries and disaster areas.
“Flying over, you could see some of the slums, but you couldn’t really see how bad it was,” Meissgeier said.
Bednov expected a lack of medical supplies, chaos and a poor situation politically.
“I was not expecting the amount of damage and the amount of instability and the amount of disorder that is there,” Bednov said. “That was kind of a shock.”
Meissgeier and Bednov helped doctors and nurses examine more than 1,000 patients who came to the hospital over eight days and participated in emergency surgeries that included amputations, appendectomies, external fixations and orthopedic surgeries.
The VCU students used the medical training they had received as members of the National Guard.
They brought to Haiti almost $700 that their fraternity, the VCU Chapter of Delta Chi, had raised for earthquake victims.
That money helped pay the salaries of Haitian hospital employees who had been working without pay for two weeks, said Dale Mohr, a fellow volunteer and member of the National Guard.
Centre Du Diagnostic Treatment Inegre– Hospital Sacre-Coeur was one of the few hospitals left standing after the earthquake. The facility was still receiving 200 to 400 patients a day, weeks after the disaster.
The hospital was so overwhelmed that tents were set up in the surrounding courtyards where patients recovered from major surgeries while others sometimes waited days for medical attention.
“We probably had about 150 patients that were in the courtyard,” Mohr said. “AJ would come in at night and work the nightshift because all of the aid doctors would come in and do their thing during the day, and then they would just go.”
Surprised by the lack of medical care during the evening, Meissgeier and Bednov decided to cover the night shifts during their time at the hospital. They organized the hospital’s pharmacy during their first night. That allowed doctors to more rapidly treat patients and probably saved lives.
“When we got there, it was total disarray and you couldn’t find anything,” said Gaylene Clark, a fellow volunteer and emergency room nurse from California. “They did an amazing job—they really did.”
Meissgeier and Bednov’s efforts to help the Haitian people have not ended with their return to Richmond. They are working with the VCU Chapter of Delta Chi to raise $15,000 for hospital reconstruction in Haiti.