January 17th, 2010
11:17 AM ET

Makeshift Haiti hospital

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical Producer

For a while they were throwing limbs of the dead in the trash. A human foot and arm mixed amongst the garbage. If there was ever any semblance of dignity here at this makeshift hospital on the United Nations compound near the airport in Port-au-Prince, it is quickly vanishing.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/17/dr.jennifer.furin.02.jpg caption="Dr. Jennifer Furin "]
I just watched aid workers remove a dead body from a warehouse tent that is being used to triage survivors from the earthquake. This was the fourth person to die since midnight, and right now it’s only 9am.

“I have no morgue. I have no place to put dead bodies,” says Dr. Jennifer Furin, a physician from Harvard Medical School who is coordinating care in one of two hospital tents here.

“This is becoming the killing field,” she says.

The injuries I am seeing here could be managed in the United States. But here in Haiti they’re starting to kill. Some people are dying from overwhelming infection. Others from a chemical reaction in their bodies called rhabdomyolysis. When a wall or chunk of concrete falls on a person, their muscles are crushed and the body releases an enzyme that poisons the kidneys. If the injured limb is not amputated or surgically cleaned out they die.

Doctors here have been using IV fluids to protect patients from kidney failure, but they haven’t had any anesthesia to perform surgeries until today.

“This is the beginning,” says Dr. Furin. “We missed our window. Maybe not for all of them, but for many of them.”

Dr. Furin refuses to let her hospital tent become any more undignified than the situation here is making it. She’s ordered all of the doctors working in it not to dispose of any more dead limbs in the trash. Instead, she’s found a plastic bin that she's placed next to her, where the remains will go until they can be properly buried.

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soundoff (80 Responses)

    please put a call out to nurses to come down. they are an able group – able to triage and work long hours with little compensation. Arrange for us to come down!

    January 18, 2010 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gas

    I am a Neuro ICU RN. Speak French, Spanish, English and Haitian Creole. Is there any way i can join forces in the massive effort to save lives of my fellow Haitians affected by this unprecedented catastrophe?

    January 18, 2010 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. thapi

    You know it just shows how fragile life is and how other things are not important like money and cars. All these people want is probably just to wake up,smile and go about their daily business even if it means with little material staff but just each other. BuT I believe God's grace abounds more near the broken hearted. Our prayers are with the people of Haiti.

    January 18, 2010 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Patrick

    I was shocked when Dr Gupta reported on the Belgium medical team leaving their patients, but would like to note the Belgium medical and rescue teams were some of the first ones to land in Haiti after earthquake. What worries me more is the stonewalling of medical teams with experience, these are not sunshine warriors, like Doctors without borders. Read the following news release:

    Port-au-Prince/Paris /New York, 17 January 2009—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges that its cargo planes carrying essential medical and surgical material be allowed to land in Port-au-Prince in order to treat thousands of wounded waiting for vital surgical operations. Priority must be given immediately to planes carrying lifesaving equipment and medical personnel.

    Despite guarantees, given by the United Nations and the US Defense Department, an MSF cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital was blocked from landing in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, and was re-routed to Samana, in Dominican Republic. All material from the cargo is now being sent by truck from Samana, but this has added a 24-hour delay for the arrival of the hospital.

    January 18, 2010 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jimmy

    This is sad....May God bless you for your good works.

    January 18, 2010 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Rev. Ernest E Felder Jr, San Antonio TX

    While covering these stories, please photographers-journalist, always present professional dignity in the coverage of the heroic efforts. For instance, there was a young Haitian woman, on the CNN cover on-line story 1-17-10...half covered up-legs gapped open, after a delivery of her baby by medical professionals. It probably was an emergency delivery–occurred outdoor; but the photography staff provided no dignity–no privacy-raw and in the open. These people who are being added are humans-first–not animals. Cover the stories, there are needed but practice dignity and respect in your coverage. I am quite sure this young woman would not have consented to such a public coverage. Please be sensitive to those who are not able to protect themselves.

    January 18, 2010 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Peter Ellams

    Press Release-"Just a 30 minute helicopter ride outside of Port-au-Prince, teams of American and Haitian doctors are standing by at Hopital Sacre Coeur,
    in the town of Milot, waiting to receive victims. This is the largest hospital in the north of Haiti, yet thousands of injured are trapped in Port-Au-Prince, and only 13 patients have arrived so far.

    Right now, the country needs all the help it can get, yet a main hospital here remains underutilized in the aftermath of this tragedy. With this, we've seen so much hope here in Milot, as people come together in efforts from fixing potholes in the street to amputating gangrenous limbs. There is no limit to the energy and effort that the people at Hopital Sacre Coeur and the Milot community are willing to invest to help their own people. The country undoubtedly needs outside help, but we can share a positive message and reinforce the strength of the Haitian people by empowering them to help themselves.

    Please, help us give help to Haiti by raising awareness of our hospital. Aid is nearby and available. We're asking that you simply include us, in any way you see fit, in rescue and recovery stories so people know there is assistance at our hospital. Or, in any of your interactions with people currently in the country, please share our information and encourage them to send those in need our way."

    January 18, 2010 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Clark

    Attn: John Bonifield,

    Why aren't Dr. Furin's critical patients being transported to the Carl Vinson for surgery & treatment?
    CNN had an earlier story that the ships medical teams were sitting on thier hands, waiting, with no patients to give help to!
    This is inhumane & not fulfilling the mission.

    Can you facilitate? Tell Southern Command?

    January 18, 2010 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sheri

    May God give hope, and a sense of security with the make-shift medical team that is there. Please continue to give the Doctors the strenght they need to carry on in a Hell of a situation. May we stand hand in hand and give a cirlce of hope, sercriuty blanket, and love for those who are in need. Take a step back and breathe

    January 18, 2010 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kalifornian

    Keeping limbs out of the garbage: it's the small dignities that keep the larger horrors from overwhelming us. Honor the parts even as you see the bodies getting hauled away to be dumped in mass graves. I was touched by a news clip I saw of a teenaged girl who had been rescued from a collapsed building by male family members and friends. As she was being interviewed (seated, uninjured, beaming a joyful smile), one of her rescuers stood behind her, picking the concrete bits out of her hair and fluffing it so she would look nice on camera. Broke my heart.

    January 18, 2010 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AlexL

    Call for medical personnel to go:
    If you are interested in being a part of a medical team, please respond ASAP to esmieletter@aol.com

    January 18, 2010 at 02:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Paul

    having served in the U.S.Army during Operation Restore/Uphold democracy 1994, I have seen first hand the conditions Haitians live in. granted that was 16 years ago. It appears that not much has changed. My Thoughts and Prayers go out to the people of Haiti. May God Guide, Bess, and Protect them during this troubling time.

    January 18, 2010 at 03:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Pete

    I am a R.N. and would appreciate any help on what organizations are accepting or will be accepting nurses to help in Haiti. I have donated money, but really want to give my time to help those people. This is why I became a nurse.

    January 18, 2010 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. sunrainy

    many people died thousands are hurt in the devastating diaster, the international society seems to care more about how many people we save, yet dignity may be more important I think, as long as it preserved the hope will not vanish.

    January 18, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jan pinney

    It is almost inconceivable that there are multitudes of people suffering unbelievable agonies of injury and loss, and now are faced with disease and starvation when only a few hours away there are so many of us who wish that there was some way to bring Haitian people in need into our homes until they can recover medically, emotionally, and spiritually. I look around my home and realize that there is abundant space, food and finances to support many more than just myself, when only a week ago I would have said my lifestyle is very modest. May God help you all.

    January 18, 2010 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. BrianG. Sugar Land, TX

    The determination of so few against such odds. My heart weeps.

    January 18, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. michael

    Israel the country everyone hates is the first country to set up a field hospital in Haiti. Even Dr Furin mentioned this in a video clip. I recommend you look at a world map and try finding Israel and Haiti. I am proud of Israel and I think this is a true indication of what the Jewish people value in life. There is also a rescue team who has already saved a Haitian from the rubble. Where are the other middle eastern nations?

    January 18, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sue Bargmann

    Has anyone contacted cruise ship corporations to volunteer ships to temporarily house at least the children who are orphans in Haiti before they die of illness and starvation!!!????
    Cruise ships were used for Katrina... I am sure they could have small boats transport the kids to the ship.....

    January 18, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. A. Smith, Oregon

    Ask your talented staff HOW surviving family members in America and Haiti can file class action lawsuits against the American Corporations involved in building those modern concrete death-trap buildings.

    Ask your talented staff HOW surviving family members in America and Haiti can pressure the US Congress and Senators for the US Justice Dept. to issue manslaughter charges against the American Contractors involved in building those modern concrete death-trap buildings.

    January 18, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. David Bonifield

    My heart goes out to the people of Haiti and to the relief workers from all over the World, but there is one other group that I think deserves some mention as well. That is the journalists who are telling the story. If it were not for them, this human disaster would be nothing more than a blip on the news, there would most likely not be such an outpouring of aid, and the hundreds of family connections found would not have happened. Some of these people, like Sanjay have done combat reporting, but I think they would tell you that they have never experienced anything like this. It will be with them for the rest of their lives and I hope that they and the other aid workers, when they come home, can get the couseling they will most likely need. I have never seen one of them complain about their own conditions in Haiti and for some it has not been good. Most are not engaging in politics. They are just reporting what they see. Some would say they are just there for the glamor, but I know better. I am very proud that my son, John Bonifield, is one of them.

    January 19, 2010 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. daliya robson


    please tell the word that israelis got to make a hospital function in hours and we are still messing about. How do we stop the red tape and get moving nos in HAITI and in all other emergencies.

    January 20, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Steve

    I have not heard CNN plug PIH as a charity to give to, in spite of their being in country and mobilizing over 5 operating rooms to provide surgical intervention for the injured. Only the Red Cross, reasons?

    January 20, 2010 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Dwight Munger, Jr

    ***Dr. Gupta and/or Anderson Cooper***or anybody who has information for LPN (LVN) Nurses! *I am a Nurse (LPN)*, I am I.V., and, CPR certified, etc. I have worked in EMS, 911 dispatch, law enforcement, and even as a mortician's assistant for years. Are only RN's allowed to go to Haiti? I have recently become unemployed and would like to help! What do I need to do, or who do I need to contact? Thank you...Dwight in Idaho.

    January 21, 2010 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Francis


    The problem you have with medical supply delivery is the fact that you have a pull system instead of a push system. Someone needs to load a cube van with supply and visit all knowed hospital an offer the supply that is on the airport tarmac

    Keep up the good work


    January 22, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Sara E Crowdis Rodriguez

    I am an RN, my cousin lives in PAP and is a veterinarian missionary. She is asking I come NOW to help. However, I can't find a flight since I'm not with a group. PLEASE HELP ME SOON!! I need to help asap!
    Sara E Crowdis Rodriguez

    January 23, 2010 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Keith Guillory

    I saw the report on CNN regarding the antibiotics and other drugs left outside in the sun at the airport. Many antibiotics require refrigeration. Why not request a half-dozen refrigerated trucks. They can be parked at the airport, and even used to actually transport those drugs to the hospitals that need them. When that need is supplied they can be used to transport milk or other perishables to the distribution centers.

    January 23, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Beverly Brewer

    Thanks Dr. Furin, for taking a stand for dignity in death and the lives of the people you and your team are serving. I have cried until I'm numb respecting the living and the dead is hard at this time...thanks you for taking a stand and showing respect for the haitian people.

    Beverly Brewer
    Oklahoma City, OK

    January 25, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dr. Zabeen Ahmed Parvez, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Thanks Jennifer nice work taking a bold step for life of severely injured people who suffered a lot and also for dead.

    September 26, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bibi Giacoletti

    I'll immediately grasp your rss as I can not to find your e-mail subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly permit me understand so that I may subscribe. Thanks.


    January 10, 2021 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 28, 2021 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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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.