Haiti's 21st Century Makeshift Hospital

Five-year-old Charlonie, got a new artificial leg donated from a company in Iceland
CBS
In a dusty field 200 feet from the Port-au-Prince airport, a makeshift medical center treats life-threatening injuries and chronic illnesses.

"If they come in here, they're treated as if they're at Mass General, Mayo or University of Miami, anywhere in the world," said Dr. Barth Green.

CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports Green was one of the first to arrive in Haiti after the earthquake.

"The first day," he said, "we were literally off a plane, operating on a kitchen table."

Project Medishare

As the chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Miami, Green amassed enough friends in high places to help Haiti at its lowest moment.

"Friends of ours from Miami and all over the country just poured it out," Green said. "Pretty soon, we had not just a field hospital, but probably the best one on the island."

It took Green just a few days to install something Haiti's never had - a critical care facility.

"You have to remember that Haiti's the poorest nation in this hemisphere. And today, people are still dying of dirty water, and kids are dying of starvation. And it's an hour from Miami," Green said.

Green's been coming to Haiti for two decades. In 1994, he founded Project Medishare - a non-profit organization that raises money to improve Haiti's healthcare system.

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If Haiti's going to thrive, it's got to have a better healthcare system.

"President Clinton has talked about bringing in a massive influx of industry and international donors. They're not going to come here unless there's a health care security net," he said.

Every week since the earthquake, Medishare has managed to mobilize a massive influx of volunteers from the United States.

At any given point, Green says they have about 150 doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists and radiology techs.

The fully air-conditioned camp is also home to the country's only neo-natal and pediatric intensive care unit.

While the hospital's role was initially disaster relief, it's since moved into a different phase: rehabilitation - especially for the more than 4,000 Haitian amputees.

"In about one day," said Bob Gailey, "this country may have as many amputees as we had through Vietnam and possibly through Afghanistan and Iraq."

Gaileyis a physical therapist who discovered that in Haiti, there's a stigma associated with the loss of a limb.

"Spiritually, many people believe that this was a curse or this was some type of spiritual retribution," Gailey said. "What we want to let people know is that they did nothing wrong and that they can be the person that they were, they're just going to have a different body."

But for some, like 5-year-old Charlonie, life must seem especially cruel. Not only did she lose her leg, but after the earthquake, her mother suffered a stroke - and is now partially paralyzed. Charlonie has seen a lot: her father's blind, her family has no house, and they live on the side of the road.

Today, Charlonie is seeing the generosity of people 4,000 miles away. Her new leg was donated by a company in Iceland.

Gailey said they've had "numerous" companies willing to donate time and efforts to help.

Adam Finnieston is training Haitians to use state-of-the-art technology called bio-sculptor, usually reserved for elite athletes.

"The camera sees the laser line as it wraps the limb," Finnieston said. "It collects the data very quickly." Finnieston's portable scanner can transmit a 3D images to his factory in Hialeah, Fla., where a custom-fit prosthesis is produced.

Emmanuelle Lundy, age 27, is one of the people being helped by Finnieston. She's anxious to get back to her job as a customer service representative.

Someday soon, Green hopes to build a permanent critical care and rehab center in Haiti. When he does, the American doctors and nurses will most likely be long gone - and that's ok with him.

"That's the way it should be," Green said. "People should be allowed to control their own destiny, and take care of their own people. All we are is empowering them to do that."