Eighteen days after the Jan. 12 earthquake that has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people, Santa Fe resident Alexander Miller, an emergency technician for Rocky Mountain EMS, was en route to Haiti where, for nearly two months, he attempted to assuage some of the ongoing havoc writhing the Caribbean country. In the wake of his visit, Miller realized one of the greatest obstacles to medical care in Haiti is the lack of proper medical vehicles. Miller is now back in Santa Fe trying to raise $5,000 for a used ambulance, for which he has secured freight transport, to bring back to Petit-Goâve, a community 50 kilometers outside Port-au-Prince. Miller has created a fund called Ambulance for Haiti and can be reached at 216-409-4882 or via email
It was kind of mayhem.
The airport was being run by the US Army, and we had tons of medical supplies and food in the hold of a plane that we emptied ourselves. After that, we just kinda waited for an hour and a half for a ride to come pick us up.
We slept in the front yard of some house, where I guess the people were no longer living. The house was still standing, but the neighborhood had a lot of fallen houses.
People were taking bodies out of collapsed buildings
when they could get them, and they were lining them up on the street. There would be 12 bodies just lined up in various states of crushing. It was very strange to see.
Yeah, that was the first night.
The first day, there was an infant who’d been burned. All the skin on her legs—probably third-degree burns—had come off her leg, which her mom had wrapped in a dirty shirt. We had to scrape away, on this little girl, all this infectious, necrotic skin.
That was the welcome to Haiti.
At the clinic, one building was still standing.
I guess it was a kitchen.
The main buildings had completely fallen. So where they were keeping supplies and medicine was in fallen buildings, so they were completely lost. There were probably like
150 to 160 people waiting for care
because they hadn’t gotten any yet since there were no supplies, no gauze, even.
The clinic was held beneath a mango tree because no one would go inside the building. Everyone was living in tents.
It’s like the entire country had been traumatized
; they wouldn’t go in a building for more than four minutes at a time.
My friend Deside, who was my translator—he had lost a lot of his friends in this earthquake—every time we went in a building, he would just look at me and say, ‘
now how would you get out
The worst example of why we need an ambulance is
: There was a girl named Sabina, who was 12 years old, and she had her leg crushed by the earthquake. She got gangrene and the doctors decided to cut her leg off. She lived two miles from the clinic. She should have come every three days but came once a week with her mother. Her crutch was literally a stick and
she’d walk two miles with an amputated leg to get her dressings changed
A 5-year-old girl was seizing and breathing irregularly, so we got her on a motorcycle and literally
20 seconds later she stopped breathing
completely and her eyes rolled back into her head. So I gave her rescue breath while on the motorcycle with a total of four people on it. I was feeling for a pulse and couldn’t feel one, so I started giving CPR. Now that I look back,
it was ridiculous that we didn’t have a car or a truck or anything
; I mean, no transportation.
a pregnant woman, who was literally crowning in the back of a pickup truck, like a sack of beans
, the baby was about to come out.
We’re going to train Haitian nurses in simple emergency medical technology to use alongside the ambulance so that
when we go and there are no more volunteers
, they’re still gonna be able to operate the ambulance for emergency care.