The earth shakes, buildings fall, hundreds of thousands of people die in minutes. Others lie broken and infected in the streets of Haiti begging, and waiting for help. An empty orphanage is the battleground for life and death in the Haiti Earthquake. Two hours from civilization, a small team of doctors, nurses and paramedics frantically struggle to save two thousand patients as the hope of survival dwindles minute by minute. The battle has just begun. And the medical team asks, “Can we save any of these people?”
Managing the twelve-person team, Rene Steinhauer, a weary combat medic, stands witness to human suffering greater than he ever encountered in Iraq. Rene partners with Danya Swanson, a “daddy’s girl” with a nursing degree who thinks she has what it takes to save the day and suddenly finds herself as the disaster manager for Jimani. Rene dries his tears and gets up to fight in a brutal battle where amputated arms and legs are piled up until somebody, anybody, has time to drag them to the fire pit. The battle rages, hopes are raised and dashed and thousands of lives hang by a thread. Can an inexperienced nurse, with no disaster experience, really save Jimani?
About the Author
Before authoring books and magazines, Rene Steinhauer started a career in medicine as a photographer with the American Red Cross. As he responded to disasters he felt more inclined to assist in the disaster than to take photographs of it.
During one disaster exercise he encountered a beautiful flight nurse from the University of California at Davis Medical Center. He wanted to meet this woman and a friend suggested he volunteer in the emergency room where the helicopter crew was based. He did it.
At a young age, he never had the courage to speak with the flight nurse, but his career was initiated. He became an emergency medical technician (EMT) in 1991 and then went on to become a paramedic in 1992. By 1995, he was already working in international medicine with adventures in Saudi Arabia and a brief experience in war torn Sarajevo. After working in a refugee camp in Rwanda, he decided that he needed to obtain his nursing degree. In 1999, he completed his degree and continued on his quest to save lives, volunteer overseas and travel with medicine.
Since then, he has practiced medicine on all seven continents including working as a flight nurse in Antarctica, a combat medic in Iraq and a disaster manager in Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami, the Haiti Earthquake, and Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. Most recently he worked as the Chief Nurse in an Ebola Treatment Center in Liberia.
In addition to writing Saving Jimani: Life and Death in the Haiti Earthquake, Rene Steinhauer has written for numerous medical journals and magazines including The Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the American Journal of Nursing, Parachutist Magazine and Soldier of Fortune Magazine.
I found my way to the operating room where a single surgeon was performing an above knee amputation. Normally, he would be assisted by nurses and an anesthesiologist. He was alone and worked quietly in solitude as he continued to sew. The hospital beds were completely filled. Every available room had patients on the floor. IVs were hanging from televisions and window levers. Every nurse and every doctor was busy. Critical patients were next to stable patients. Family members were crowding the halls. The site was devoid of organization.
The knot in my stomach was becoming more intense and painful. People will die here; I heard my inner voice speaking. The death would not only be from the severity of the injuries, but also due to the chaos that enveloped the hospital. The place smelled like failure. Each room and each hallway was a separate battle for life and death. Each battle was fought individually and without the knowledge or assistance of staff only one room away. My breathing increased as I sensed the desperation of the families. The system failure was more than a technical issue; it was a physical presence that drenched me in an awkward guilt. I was not responsible for the failure, but I felt as if I should do something. Anything. It was painful to be inside the hospital; I had to step outside.
Thank you to Rene for stopping by.