An injured leg gets a cast. Proper wound care can prevent amputations.
Last week, a pregnant woman arrived at Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital (HUEH) seeking treatment for month-old, infected lacerations covering her feet.
“We were so aware that compared to the really serious cases being brought in, her injuries may have seemed minor,” said Johanna Berrigan, a physician assistant with the House of Grace Catholic Worker in Philadelphia, who aided in bringing the woman to HUEH. “Yet, I believe that she would have joined the statistics of the many who had to have subsequent amputations,” she added. “She was in so much pain.”
Having not received any healthcare assistance since the earthquake because she worried that doing so would take valuable resources away from patients with more acute needs, the expectant mother was now in danger of losing a foot, or worse.
These types of infections, if left untreated, damage the effected limb’s tissue and blood vessels to such an extent that amputation is often the patient’s only remaining option.
Failure to remove the limb can also lead to sepsis, a condition wherein the original wound’s infection spreads throughout the body via the bloodstream. Sepsis will lead to death if left untreated long enough. The woman’s pregnancy amplified this threat.
Berrigan and her team were surprised to find that PIH/Zanmi Lasante physicians at HUEH immediately put the woman on an aggressive antibiotic regimen, and cleaned and bandaged her wounds. Ultimately, this saved both her feet. Berrigan praises PIH’s healthcare workers, saying, “The staff at the hospital, even under the pressing demands, were organized, respectful, and very helpful."
As the initial emergency relief efforts in Haiti end, the PIH medical team fears that many more people with sepsis and infected wounds similar to this woman’s will begin showing up at local clinics.
The woman, who is about six months pregnant, is now resting at home and is expected to make a full recovery. Healthcare workers affiliated with Berrigan's project in Ti Place Cazeau continue to follow up with her treatment.