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January 19th, 2010
04:26 PM ET

The strength of the littlest victims

By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

Nurse Fabienne Goutier, right, tends to Jean Wesley Marc, 4, and his father, Manes Marc, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Nurse Fabienne Goutier, right, tends to Jean Wesley Marc, 4, and his father, Manes Marc, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The wounds of the earthquake victims here at this makeshift hospital are so deep you can see the muscle and fat in the gaping holes. I watch doctors and nurses clean these wounds aggressively, because if they don’t get out all the dead tissue, infection will set in and quickly kill the patient.

As you might imagine, cleaning these wounds hurts like the devil, even with pain medication.

“I was cleaning a 3-inch deep wound in the calf on this 3-year-old boy. We gave him two shots of morphine first, and I told him I’d give him some candy when we were done,” says Fabienne Goutier, the charge nurse at the makeshift hospital where I’ve spent the past five days. “But he still screamed and screamed because I was really digging, digging, digging, getting out all that necrotic tissue.”

As promised, when she was done, Goutier, who’s working with Project Medishare in Haiti, gave the little boy candy.

She walked by the boy’s cot a short time later, and he looked up at her and smiled.

“Candy?” he said, offering her the sweets she’d just given him. “Candy?”

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” says Goutier, who in her regular job works as a nurse at Homestead Hospital in Florida. ”After what I just did to you, you’re sharing your candy with me?”

The resilience of the 32 children here at this Port au Prince hospital continues to amaze me. Pretty much the only time I hear them cry is when they’re having their dressings changed when by all rights they should be wailing 24-7. I’m sure all of them have lost people they loved in the earthquake. They’re severely wounded, some with broken bones that are too complicated to set here. Food and water arrive sporadically. Many of them have had an arm or a leg amputated. They’re filthy and in a strange place, surrounded by grotesquely wounded people
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Oh, and they also just experienced a terrifying, traumatizing earthquake.

Five of the kids have a special reason to cry: The hospital staff believe they’re orphans, alone in this hospital of 135 patients. There are more doctors and nurses around to attend to them now, but when I first arrived Thursday night the staff was sparse and running from emergency to emergency, and so for days the orphans were left on their own most of the time. When they had to urinate they had no choice but to do so in their clothes.

Despite all this, these kids are really quite calm. The ones I’ve seen aren’t fussing and aren’t panicked. They have nothing to do but look around hour after hour, day after day.

“I have yet to hear anyone complain,” says Tony Menendez, a trauma nurse at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, who’s volunteering at the hospital. “They just lost their family, some of them just lost their limbs, and they’ve just come to accept it.”

I asked Goutier, who grew up in Haiti to explain to me how these children could be so calm and mature under such desperate circumstances.

“Haitians are very resilient,” she says. “Even little children are expected to be grown up and do things like carry water. When you’re 5, you’re 25.”

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 19th, 2010
02:37 PM ET

I still can’t believe they picked me

By Stanley Saballett
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

I am just a regular person who works every day. For some reason, I’ve always been shy of the limelight. Maybe it’s the old African proverb that says,”A camera can capture your soul,” or the fear of the sin of pride taking over, and ego. I don’t know but I’ve always shied away from the camera. A documentary was recently completed at the San Diego Youth Services transitional living program, Take Wing, where I am the program manager. The goal was to make people aware of the thousands of youth in San Diego living on our streets, homeless. I’ve overseen the program for the last 11 years and been a part OF the agency for more than twenty years but I still refused to be part of the documentary. That’s just not me.

Stanley Saballett is competing in the 2010 Fit Nation Challenge.

Stanley Saballett is competing in the 2010 Fit Nation Challenge.

But as I watched it, I was reminded of the struggle these youth have gone through. They swallowed their pride and showed that they were vulnerable and needed help. It made me think, if we need help, it doesn’t matter who we are, we should seek it. That same day, I went home and turned on CNN to find Dr. Gupta’s call for America to get fit. I wrote down the Web site casually, went to sleep and forgot about it. A few days had passed when I found my chicken scratch with the address. I had some extra time (it was 1:30 a.m.), and started sifting through some of the videos that had been submitted. It was Ricky’s video that ultimately inspired me to submit my own. The sincerity in his purpose came across and made me think: Maybe I should be doing this, for the Take Wing youth and myself.

I am always encouraging the youth to live healthy and to be healthy. I want the best for them, especially after everything they’ve lived through. It takes a lot to repair a broken spirit, but physical health definitely helps.

There were only supposed to be five competitors but CNN expanded the competition to include a sixth person. To think that CNN may have made that exception for me, it’s hard for me to believe. Now it’s my turn to be helped by training for and completing my very first triathlon. I will look to my friends, family, co-workers and of course the youth for encouragement and inspiration while I experience this life-changing challenge.

Now that I am back in San Diego, the real work begins. There is no trainer (yet) and there is no camera but I am still doing something every day to work out. Friday, I took the Take Wing youth up Cowles Mountain (highest peak in San Diego) for about a 2½-mile hike. All along the trails, they sent their words of encouragement, and it fills me.

Yesterday, my brother, the “bro-trainer,” pushed me while doing an 8-mile mountain bike ride through Rancho Penasquitos Trail. When we were done with the bike ride, I still had plans to run, but I could tell my brother had other ideas. “Go ahead and start running and I’ll ride beside you,” he said, supporting me the way only a big brother will do for his little (BIG) brother.

I am racing for the youth, my mom and for people with cancer. It’s a commitment I’ve made in my heart, although not public until now.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 19th, 2010
01:47 PM ET

Massachusetts vote pivotal in health care reform

By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Medical Senior Producer

While our reporters and many of our resources are still in Haiti, there’s other big news today. Massachusetts voters are picking the replacement for Senator Ted Kennedy. The latest polls suggest Scott Brown, a conservative Republican, had nosed ahead of state Attorney General Martha Coakley. That would leave Senate Democrats with a 59-41 majority, instead of the 60 seats they have now.

Why talk politics in the Paging Dr. Gupta blog? Because the Massachusetts vote has an outsize impact on the fate of the health care bills. Refresher: The Senate and the House of Representatives have each passed a bill to overhaul the health care system. They’re largely similar: Each would expand insurance coverage by requiring individuals and businesses to purchase policies, and offering subsidies to help pay for it. Each would put new requirements on insurance companies, so they can’t turn people away or charge outlandish rates.

But the two bills have their differences. To become law, they need to be merged into a single version – which each chamber of Congress would have to approve, before sending to the president for his signature. In the Senate especially, it’s close. Senate rules allow a minority of 41 senators to block the vote. Since the 40 other Republicans are unanimously opposed to the health care bill, a victory by Scott Brown would let them block the bill.

It’s ironic: The nail in the coffin of the health care bill could come from the seat that for the past 48 years was held by the country’s most famous champion of health care. And from the state that already has near-universal health insurance, under a system much like the one proposed in Congress.

Still, if Brown wins today, the debate isn’t over. Aside from scrapping the whole effort, Democrats could:

* Try to pass the bill before Brown is seated. Considering the differences between the two bills, and the passions involved, that would be a tall order.

* Try to pass a bill using the budget reconciliation process. This is complicated, but basically, it requires only 51 votes instead of the 60-vote supermajority. However, it can be used only for items directly affecting the federal budget. Taxes and subsidies – yes. Other provisions, such as the requirement for insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions – maybe not. Expect a lot of controversy if Democrats try this route.

* The House could pass a bill identical to the Senate’s version, eliminating the need for a re-vote. That is pretty unpopular with many House members, who want to fight for changes – especially on abortion and taxes. But those members could decide that the Senate bill is better than no bill, and push for changes later, perhaps through budget reconciliation.

Do you want to see a health reform bill? What would you like to see happen next?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 19th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Clinton vows to help Haiti

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He interviewed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who describes the Haiti relief effort.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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