By Jennifer Browning
Croix-Rouge Haitienne (Haitian Red Cross) stopped at the Project Medishare field hospital today for anyone wishing to donate blood. Local and foreign volunteers offered to donate.
Before January, the institutions Croix-Rouge Haitienne visited to collect blood donations were schools and universities. Most of those were destroyed in the earthquake, so Robert Michaud, who is responsible for distributing blood units for Croix-Rouge Haitienne, is trying to find any organization willing to donate blood.
“Port-au-Prince supplies 50 percent of the country with blood. With the earthquake we are in a shortage, and we lost the majority of our donors,” Michaud said. “The rest of the cities are not supplying enough blood for themselves and for us, so we are trying to do the best that we can and go to as many spots to collect as much blood as we can.”
Project Medishare volunteer Laura Foster, an ER nurse from Tampa, is serving this week as a charge nurse. As a trauma nurse and a volunteer working in Haiti she sees the desperate need for blood donors.
“I see the critical need [to donate blood],” Foster said. “We had a lady who walked in with a hemoglobin of 1.8. That is not compatible with life. We were able to give her one unit of blood when she needed eight. That’s all we had. We got her up for a 3.4. At home if a patient had a hemoglobin level like that we would be panicking, but that is all we could do for her. Nobody should have to live like that.”
Since Foster and her medical team at the field hospital didn’t have enough blood to give to the patient, they had to administer certain medicines such as iron and vitamin B12 shots, in order to help the patient “build blood.”
“At home I have never seen a patient with a lower hemoglobin level than a three,” she said.
Foster is a universal blood donor back in the States, and since she can’t donate for a year after working in Haiti, she decided to give here.
“I’ve donated three gallons at home, so I thought why not?” she said. “I might as well donate blood here where it is needed since I won’t be able to donate anytime soon when I return to the United States.”
Prior to volunteering this week with Project Medishare, Foster had participated in two mission trips abroad, however neither trip was in a third world country or after a disaster. For Foster, the week has been filled with both challenges and rewards.
“My experience this week volunteering has been wonderful an awful all at the same time. The people are so appreciative and so gracious, and they are such a proud people,” she said, “to see what they are living through is so difficult. To see [the patients at the field hospital] and tour the city and see the devastation first hand hits you hard.”
Foster said that working at the field hospital has also taken her out of her comfort zone.
“It’s been trying. I am an ER nurse at a Level 1 trauma center, so as a charge nurse I am way beyond my comfort level,” she said. “But I think we are all out of our comfort level the moment we stepped of the plane last week. I have learned a lot, which is good. Overall it has been very rewarding.”
Ironically, Foster found out moments later that she couldn’t give blood because her hemoglobin was low.
“I am really bummed because I could really help here,” Foster said.
Many others donated including Pierre Jeanluckner, who is a local working at the field hospital.
“It’s a pleasure to give blood today,” he said. “I work here at the hospital to help my people however I can. I translate for doctors and patients, I transport patients, anything that is needed I try to help. But this, giving blood to day, is just one more way I can do more for my people.”