From May 1 to July 31, 2021 we had the opportunity to be of help to nearly 1,200 patients with acute, severe respiratory illness, at St Luke Hospital.
COVID testing is not widespread in Haiti, nor do results come back fast (sometimes after discharge or death), but we share the experience of others that the vast majority of those tested were shown to be COVID positive.
A number of priests and nuns, a beloved bishop, a number of very prominent people in Haiti, were victims of this current COVID wave, which reportedly included the strains from UK and the Amazon region.
We all witnessed first hand that the people coming in during this wave, were even sicker than the first wave.
Our oxygen demand was higher because often we needed two tanks per person:
15 liters per minute by mask and 6 liters per minute by nasal cannula.
We were very fortunate to have received a generous supply of the antiviral medicine Remdesivir, which gave good results to those who came early on in their sickness.
We were also able, just prior to this wave and also currently, to get vaccinations for all staff who would like to be vaccinated.
The current vaccination campaign, led by St Damien Hospital and some other designated centers, is not just for medical staff, but offered to the public.
Aside from the team, I also rounded on each patient at least once a day, usually at night.
“Friendship” rounds, encouragement and prayer, and to add suggestions for those not responding to our treatments.
But frankly the logistics this time, because of the conditions on the streets, took up most of my time and turned more of my hair grey.
Especially with the highly burdensome and often dangerous job of providing enough oxygen.
Nearly 360 tanks had to be filled every day. Each carted from the bedside, loaded into trucks, driven across town amid gang wars, returned again full, and carted to the bed.
Sore arms, sore legs, sore backs, crushed fingers. Body aches and headaches.
We have gone down presently from a long stretch of 105 bed occupancy, to the current 30 patients.
Along the way we sadly said goodby to 81 people- for many they slipped away and died before we could even help, often at the gate.
It’s a 7% death rate at our center, all patients taken into account. It is sobering.
We are grateful to the spiritual and pastoral care offered to the patients daily by the Missionary of Charity Sisters, and to Fr David Fontaine for offering anointing of the sick, coming at least three times a week to help.
We are grateful to the whole courageous staff for the dedicated 24/7 care in spite of many challenges.
But we do also want to thank all of your for your spectacular support.
With your help we are able to run what amounts to an additional hospital on the St Luke Hospital compound, for these months and into the future, albeit at present at 30% capacity.
We are also well aware that in the United States and other places, the Delta variant is on the rise, and on the way here.
The New York Times referred to the Delta variant today as seeming to be a “sicker, quicker, younger” variant.
Because of your support, we are able to manage all extra staff, all the PPE materials needed, all the medicines, all the oxygen (which is $19/refill for most of these last 12 weeks.)
But also thanks to many of you, we have:
-increased the number of our oxygen tanks by 400,
-increased our bedside oxygen concentrators by 100,
-increased our oxygen producing capacity by 50 tanks per day (and will be able to increase even more),
-and we have been able to upgrade the industrial size generators and solar system that run the hospitals.
It is truly a marvel, when you consider the many stresses here in Haiti, which during this wave also included, very shockingly and sadly, the assassination of the President.
We are stronger because of you. We have done, and will continue to do, our best to meet the challenges.
We send our deepest thanks, and our promise of prayers for you and your families.
God bless you with health and peace.
Fr Rick Frechette, CP DO
Port au Prince
August 3, 2021
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