PORT-AU-PRINCE - - Inside a small stucco pavilion built as a urology clinic - one of the few buildings in the hospital complex deemed structurally sound - patient after patient was wheeled into the makeshift operating room on an old bed Saturday. Workers doused the walls with disinfectant as a couple of nurses prepped the wounded and gave them a bit of anesthesia. Then out came the saws.
The work was amputations.
On the grounds of the heavily damaged General Hospital, injured people, some with crudely severed limbs, moaned or stared vacantly.
Oda Mukkuaka, a Haitian surgeon who has worked at the hospital for four years, helped guide the saw across the shin of a 40-year-old woman who had lost her foot after she was hit by falling debris.
Using a headlamp like those worn by miners because there was no electricity, surgical scrubs tied around his waist in the heat, Mukkuaka doused blood and cleared away tissue. Once the cutting was done, he swiftly pushed metal wire into the skin, sewing shut a pocket-like fold to form a stump.
"We are used to working in a harsh environment because we are in Haiti," he said, mentioning shortages of supplies and the population's precarious existence. "The difference this time is the volume."
A small group of physicians continued working at General Hospital, but it was a triage that made "MASH" look like a boutique clinic in Beverly Hills.
Georges Lamarre, a tall, gaunt general practitioner, was at home when the quake sundered Port-au-Prince. Within two hours, he made his way back to the hospital and started tending to those staggered to the hospital. First thing: He delivered the baby of a woman pulled from a collapsed building.
By midnight, five doctors were working at General Hospital; by dawn, about 20. Many doctors had died, were missing or were absorbed in saving their families.
"We had a lot of patients that first night, but the next day it was uncontrollable," said Lamarre, 35. Most of the patients bled to death, he said. There were no antibiotics or blood supplies. "Up to this moment, there are patients out there we haven't even touched." They included Yolanda Gehry, who brought her baby, Ashleigh, to the hospital Tuesday night. Four days later, a doctor came by and taped up the baby's head but had not yet treated her shattered hand. Ashleigh sat in her mother's lap, sobbing disconsolately, a bloodied bandage swaddling her left hand like a woeful mitten.
"The Haitian doctors didn't have anything to help us, so we had to wait for the foreigners," the mother said. "I am not angry. I am waiting."
Jule Lutheran said he thought that his goddaughter's arm might have been saved if she had been seen earlier. The 26-year-old woman, Jean Orelis, lay sprawled on a cot, her arm crudely wrapped. "We depend on God and the doctors, so we can't be angry."