After 5 days in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Ontario nurse returns home and shares what she saw

·3 min read
Carolyn Davies, a nurse from Amherstburg, Ont., with a patient who suffered broken legs in the earthquake earlier this month. Davies is a volunteer and team member with Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT), a disaster relief organization.  (Submitted by Carolyn Davies - image credit)
Carolyn Davies, a nurse from Amherstburg, Ont., with a patient who suffered broken legs in the earthquake earlier this month. Davies is a volunteer and team member with Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT), a disaster relief organization. (Submitted by Carolyn Davies - image credit)

Warning: Video contains graphic images.

A nurse from Amherstburg, Ont., who recently returned to Canada after five intense days helping people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti says the injuries were as traumatic if not worse than the last big quake to hit the Caribbean nation over a decade ago.

Carolyn Davies, a volunteer and board member with the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT), a Toronto-based disaster relief organization, was in Les Cayes, among the worst-hit cities in the Caribbean nation.

"The injuries are significant. A lot of pelvic fractures. We've never seen so many double pelvic fractures ever," Davies said.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake in southwest Haiti on Aug. 14 has left more than 2,200 people dead and 12,268 injured, and destroyed nearly 53,000 homes.

"We heard the earthquake occurred at 8:30 in the morning. By 1 o'clock, our board had met and determined to deploy. That was like five hours after the earthquake. We organized an airplane to fly us down to be here."

The team arrived in Les Cayes 48 hours later.

CMAT partners with HERO

As a non-governmental organization, CMAT provides emergency humanitarian aid to countries affected by natural and man-made disasters. Davies and the volunteers were invited to partner with the Haiti Emergency Recovery Organization (HERO), which co-ordinates emergency ambulance, airplanes and helicopters.

Davies used to provide primary care to in-home patients through Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) in Amherstburg, but retired. She has been a volunteer nurse practitioner for CMAT since 2005. Approximately 10 years ago, she became a board member for the organization.

Submitted by Carolyn Davies
Submitted by Carolyn Davies

Her work with CMAT has varied, from deployments in Pakistan, to Nepal and Haiti. In January 2010, the 7.0 magnitude quake that hit Haiti killed more than 200,000 and injured at least 300,000.

"There didn't seem to be as much destruction to buildings [in 2021] as we saw in 2010 when we were here, but there was enough," Davies said.

"But the injuries themselves, I would say, were as bad or worse as we saw in 2010."

Submitted by Carolyn Davies
Submitted by Carolyn Davies

In Les Cayes, Davies and her team were based out of the Ofatma hospital, where they were responsible for assessing patients and transferring them to hospital in Port-au-Prince via helicopter. According to Davies, 40 to 55 transfers took place over her five days in Haiti.

"Right now the beds are full and the supplies — the shelves are empty. We're really trying to supplement that with our donations to them," Davies said.

Equipment, supplies, funding needed

CMAT has helped with money and supply donations as well.

On Thursday, $50,000 worth of medical supplies, including ventilators, bed sheets, intravenous units (IVs) and antibiotics, were flown into Les Cayes after they were donated from a variety of Canadian and U.S. clinics and hospitals.

Another plane filled with medical supplies was set to leave from Toronto to Haiti on Monday (Aug. 23).

Submitted by Carolyn Davies
Submitted by Carolyn Davies

Davies said staff have been working as best as they can, but are in need of more equipment and medical supplies.

CMAT has raised about $4,500 in monetary donations and the organization is accepting more. Donations can be made to cmat.ca.

LISTEN | Hear more from nurse volunteer Carolyn Davies about her experience in Haiti:

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting