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Adaptation and overcoming obstacles in austere environments

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

12 January 2010 Haiti 16:53 local time a magnitude 7 earthquake tore

through Léogâne and approximately 25 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital death tolls rose to 230,000 per reports on ground . My team based out Bronx NYC set forth to deploy in country to perform search and rescue techniques and life saving procedures . Upon setting forth on this venture all equipment was packed and stored in heavy duty travel cases . Upon arriving to the airport all gear was loaded and stored on board the aircraft and was ready to make it’s way to PAP. Upon arrival though we found that not only our gear didn’t arrive but also our checked luggage with our personal belongings.

Day 1 in country K9 Cassius and handler arrived in country to have same issue as us. We all went around to find provisions for our K9 since his nose was the meaning between life and death for most trapped under tons of rubble. Upon meeting with different teams in country we were able to acquire some food and basics for the K9. Luckily the ability to barter items in decimated areas truly goes a long way , for which this helped when it came to acquiring some MREs and some medical equipment from members of the 82nd Airborne. Our relationship working alongside the 82nd would go a long way and would lead to actual live finds and on field treatment of the injured .

Legliz la te tonbe (the church has collapsed) was being yelled by the locals while we were being briefed in the logistics tent in the campus of PAP hospital, for which at this point we were tasked to find survivors, perform a search and radio in for any additional resources . At this point we’re getting ready to mobilize , making any final checks on our gear for which we still had minimal supplies, in my mind I kept going over my kit; med bag , irons, axe, hydraulic equipment all checked, only thing not available was our Talon 2 litter and vehicle straps. We were told to mobilize immediately a vehicle rolled up with a non-English speaking Haitian driver provided by the hospital and we loaded all our essential gear and off we went into the mangled streets , wires whipping moving in serpentine patterns , rubble as far as you can see , patches of blood spilled on the ground and bodies in forms you would not recognize .

Upon arrival to the scene the dust is still settling, screaming and crying from families of the survivors pleading for help could be heard as we were driving in . K9 Cassius immediately went to work and detected, search zones were created and immediately our team went to work . One survivor was present with the crucifix that was once sitting on the steeple of the church. It was now currently embedded in the abdomen of a male in his early 30s, his left lower quadrant had a piece of sheared steel with evisceration present . His legs presented bilateral mid shaft femurs essentially sheared off by the base of the now mangled steel that was now holding pressure on the legs preventing massive hemorrhage.

A Haitian surgeon luckily was present with us this day, IV access was made , TQs placed on bilateral extremities. At the same time the driver who brought us there got into the vehicle and drove off, while attempting to communicate back with the logistics tent our radios did not transmit or receive and now communications were broken. The surgeon and the team did their job. I immediately went to work finding a way to transport this man back to the hospital, our biggest toughest looking guy on team was tasked on finding a vehicle for which he did by essentially commandeering a pickup truck driving past and paying off the driver . Now as far as a transport device , equipment available was 10mm rope, axe and a halligan , well one of the partially collapsed buildings had an intact door for which my halligan and axe made quick work of removing from the frame . Spinal precautions made , patient log rolled onto flat door , secured with rope and carried approximately 20 meters into the back of the pick up . The back of this bed became an ambulance and patient was successfully transported to PAP general hospital . The door litter became a welcome sign upon entering PAP and essentially became a sign in for the teams entering the hospital .

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