Three years ago, James Medina was sitting in a classroom in Port-au-Prince with more than 50 other students, learning about human anatomy, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the capital city of Haiti. The school building collapsed, trapping Medina and his colleagues.
“I was completely stuck, I couldn’t move. There were three bodies on my left and two on my right, and they weren’t moving,” Medina said. “I had a cell phone, but it wouldn’t work, so I just waited as long as I could and then tried again.”
After spending a day under the rubble, Medina was finally able to send a text message to his relatives and was rescued. He was one of the lucky few – only six people from his classroom survived.
However, eight days after his rescue, Medina lost his left leg due to infection and blood clots from his injuries.
In May 2010, Medina, now 25, received his first prosthetic leg and decided on a slight career shift. He’s now studying to be an ortho-prosthetist, a technician who specializes in creating prosthetic devices for amputees. He studies under a group of technicians from Healing Hands for Haiti, attending workshops and classes in the group’s new Port-au-Prince out-patient rehabilitation facility, Klinik Kay Kapab, which also houses a prosthetics workshop.
The American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross supported the construction and operation of the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic, investing in the health and livelihoods of the thousands who became amputees after the quake.
“I work with people who thought their lives were over, but with our help they start to realize they can get back to their normal lives from before,” said Clergé Dieusilné, a physical therapist at the clinic.
The American Red Cross contributed more than $1.3 million for the clinic’s operation, including providing 1,000 prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services for 3,000 patients.
The funding structure of the clinic allows for patients to pay what they are able to pay, based on assessments of various criteria by an in-house social worker, Philias Manouchka. Support from the Red Cross and other organizations plays a significant role in the clinic’s capacity to accept patients who otherwise may not receive assistance, physically or mentally.
“We do not turn people away even if they can’t pay; sometimes we can find sponsors, but often those who can pay more are willing to help others who can’t pay as much,” Manouchka said. She is also in charge of mental support needs, as many patients struggle with emotional trauma from the circumstances of losing their limbs.
In addition to supporting the physical rehabilitation clinic, the American Red Cross has continued to fund hospitals and other health programs in Haiti, including operational support for Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port au Prince, and construction funding for a Partners in Health teaching hospital in Mirebalais.
The Red Cross spent more than $3 million to support several vaccination campaigns in 2012 alone, targeting cholera, measles, rubella and other threats in urban and rural communities. More than 90,000 adults and children received the first ever cholera vaccine in Haiti, purchased and distributed by Partners in Health with support from the American Red Cross.
Even as the American Red Cross looks toward the next stage of recovery, health programs like these will continue to play a pivotal role in creating long-term progress for the people of Haiti.
For more information on what the American Red Cross is doing in Haiti and to read the three-year progress report, please visit www.redcross.org/haiti.