Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10
I arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, nine days after the January 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, injured countless others, and decimated the limited infrastructure previously present. The medical needs of the injured were overwhelming. When I reached the hospital, patients with open fractures were still finding their way to the operating room for initial treatment. Femur fractures were just starting to be addressed.
On the medical level, the needs were massive. From a practical standpoint, the patients had no place to go after being treated, as their homes had been destroyed. There was lack of food. Supply of drinking water was limited. Grief was pandemic, as nearly every person had lost family or close friends.
As days passed, hospital resources began to improve, with the exception of one glaring deficiency–we had no transfusable blood available. One particular femoral intramedullary rodding took longer than anticipated, with more than expected blood loss. Although I was not part of the initial procedure, I became involved when the patient was brought back to the operating room later in the day for resuscitation. He had to have blood–now!
We did everything possible to acquire some blood from the surrounding institutions, but failed. We kept the patient alive for several hours, but, without the needed transfusion, he eventually died.
The next day, a patient returned to the operating room for a wound debridement. The attending surgeons felt they had an adequate debridement, but blood continued to ooze from the open wound. The operative team placed a tourniquet to temporarily stem the flow, until transfusable blood could be procured. Even though they were assured that blood would be available, none was forthcoming. The tourniquet had to be left in place to save his life, but in the process, the limb viability was lost.
I was devastated. A death from a preventable cause one night, followed by an arm amputation from another preventable cause the next day was just too much. Although I had not been involved in either surgery, and the damaged arm, later amputated, would have had a likelihood of poor function, this “medical practice” was still not the way it should be. I was trained to save lives and protect injured extremities. Preventable deaths and amputations were so unnecessary.
Finally, I could not make it anymore. The weight of the needs was too great, and I was overwhelmed with the despair of failure. I was going home. At this point, God reminded me that it is true–I could not make a difference. Only He could make that difference, if I allowed Him to work through me.
I finally realized that when things did not work out the way I had planned, prayed, or wanted, the results were not in my hands, but in His. After I had done my best through His strength, and prayed for His blessing, if things did not meet my expectations, I had to step back and let Him be God.
–DuWayne Carlson, LLUSM class of 1989, practices orthopedic surgery part time in Nebraska. He also manages New Beginnings Ranch in southwest Colorado and promotes a healthy lifestyle for himself and others.