Nurses with L&M roots are among those providing aid

Editor's note: Jessica Patti of New London, a Lawrence & Memorial Hospital Emergency Department nurse, and retired L&M nurse Mary Vendetto have been providing medical care to victims of the Haitian earthquake since their arrival in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. Other medical volunteers from L&M are scheduled to join Patti and Vendetto later this week. They are part of the group Raising Haiti, organized by Patti and fellow L&M nurse Cheryl Maulden. On Monday Patti was able to borrow a cell phone to provide this update.

During the day Jessica Patti and Mary Vendetto are working with Dr. Francis Pierre, the Haitian doctor from New York they arrived with, and two Haitian nurses in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince, providing the only medical care in that part of the Haitian capital.

Their makeshift clinic is on the porch of a building. A slab of wood placed over cinder blocks serves as their examining table. There is no electricity or running water. Their medical supplies consist of the contents of three suitcases they brought with them.

They care for a steady stream of earthquake victims with broken bones, lacerations and the like. Sometimes the line of those waiting for care has been 50 deep. Many of the injured are children.

"They'll live, but some of them are going to be terribly scarred," Patti said.

For any who are severely injured, the team members provide what care they can until the end of the day, when the medical team transports them in a car they rented to a nearby hospital for surgery. The team then works at the hospital until bedtime. They sleep in tents outside the hospital.

Patti said Monday morning began with a Haitian woman running up to her screaming. The woman grabbed Patti and took her to a car, where Patti found the woman's sister, severely ill. Patti gave her CPR, but she died.

Ten minutes later, a pregnant woman in labor came to the clinic and Patti helped her deliver a healthy baby.

On Sunday, Patti had another joyful experience when Carter Cassion, the head of an elementary school she'd befriended on her first trip to Haiti as a volunteer three months ago, found her at the clinic. Despite numerous attempts to reach him, she had not known until he walked into the clinic whether he had survived the earthquake.

Cassion pulled his wife out of the school just as it was collapsing, Patti said. Their two children also survived unharmed. No students were in the building at the time.

Patti said Cassion saw a message that her mother, Nanette Patti, put on Facebook about the clinic where her daughter was working.

"He walked six hours to find me," Patti said. "But he and his family are homeless."

While there have been reports of food shortages in many areas of Port-au-Prince, Patti said she and her team have been able to buy enough food for themselves and the patients.

"I've turned into a fantastic negotiator," she said. "Once people know you're trying to help ... "

She told of a policeman she met at the hospital who agreed to help at the clinic the next day as a translator. Within a few hours he was wearing scrubs and sterile gloves and helping care for patients along with translating.

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