Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Dog Days of a Red Cross Summer.

5pm - I’m in my tent putting on an episode of the Wire, I crack a prestige, light a cigarette and sit back in my chair I have an hour before dinner and I’m filthy and tired. My only free moment in a crazy week. 5 minutes into it three frazzled Italian nurses burst into my tent trying to catch their breaths. “There is a boy named Emmanuelle whose intestines have ruptured we don’t have a surgeon here, Father Rick said you might know of someone who can do it.” Fuck. I get on the phone and start making calls to every NGO hospital I know. I run over to Father Rick and the boy and tell them we can rush to Medishare but they don’t have an anesthesiologist so we have to provide one. Father Rick tells me he can send the boy to Margaret Digons beautiful hospital in Pettionville. The boy is loaded into a truck and we head off to dinner, another disaster averted.

6pm - Our first dinner out in weeks and I try to relax but am still uneasy. Father Rick’s phone goes off when the food hits the table. The boy needs blood. We all pull our phones out to go on the terrible but familiar Port au Prince blood hunt. I call the UN, WHO, Medishare, WFP, UNICEF all of them tell me they have no blood and the only place is the Red Cross office at the General Hospital. Father Rick and Wynn speed off in the truck and head downtown while Conan and I rush to our hospital to get whatever blood we can scrounge. A light rain begins to fall and the boy is bleeding out and dying.

8pm - It looks like it’s going to be a long night. Father Rick arrives at the hospital and is met with a long line of mothers and fathers holding buckets of melting ice waiting for blood. Emmanuelle’s young mother shows up out of breath on the back of a motorcycle with a sample of his blood to test for match. Conan and I wait for the call about the type so we can send blood his way. Father Rick calls to say the generator has broke and there is no power at the hospital, they can’t test his blood. We are fucked. “You can try the Saints Hospital downtown.” The Red Cross guy tells him. Father Rick sighs heavy he knows that the hospital collapsed and is in ruins. “Don’t worry,” they tell him. “They still have blood” Emmanuelle mothers eyes light up with hope and they drive off in the night to the Saints Hospital.

9pm - Conan and I collect all the blood we can find and send it up to Pettionville. Two of our trucks rush down to the Red Cross to try to fix the generator. Three of our motorcycles race up the hill to Pettionville with swinging coolers of blood dodging potholes and mad dogs.

9:30pm - I get a text inviting me to a fancy pool party at the mansion where the foreign staff of the Red Cross live. I curse under my breath and am tempted to show up and kick down the door with Emmanuelle in my arms asking them where the fucking blood is just to watch them hide behind their crystal glasses of champagne.

10pm - No blood at Saints and its back to the Red Cross at General Hospital. Father Rick prays a special prayer reserved for miracles. Back at the Hospital the Generator fires up and the test on the boys blood begins. Halfway through the generator breaks again. “I should have asked for a specific timeline with that prayer.” Father Rick says while shaking his head. The Red Cross office is a disaster. It starts raining hard; the roof leaks on crying mothers. Nearly $500 million raised just for Haiti and this is what the result is. A pitch black, broken, leaky office with no blood and full of parents worried as their children lie on operating tables somewhere waiting and waiting. The guy behind the counter is an asshole, his Red Cross badge flickers gold in the candlelight.

11:25pm - The Red Cross asks Father if he can take the battery out of his truck and attach it to the generator to get it working again. The hood is popped, cell phones come out to light the way and the battery is removed and connected to the generator. It works.

11:30pm - It’s dark and raining hard. From Pettionville Dr. Margaret keeps calling, franticly asking what the blood type is so she can begin to operate. Emmanuelle is by her side his intestines exploded from Typhoid, he’s skinny and breathing hard he’s in tremendous pain. Downtown his mother fights on for blood, she’s told he has Typhoid that’s a result of drinking dirty water; she feels shame. The generator coughs and chugs running off a car battery. Emmanuelle’s blood gets examined for type. Somewhere three motorcycles are racing from Pettionville to the General Hospital carrying the rest of the blood to barter with the Red Cross. At the Red Cross party in the hills someone falls in the pool. I’m at the UN screaming at their doctors and asking them what the fuck they are doing in Haiti without blood. My friend from World Health Organization calls to tell me he has exhausted his search for blood and is empty handed. I drive off and run over a tarantula the size of my foot.

12am - Father Rick gets 1 pint of blood: he needs two. He asks them for two but is told he can’t have it tonight since there are others waiting. He tells them he will wait till all have blood. The Red Cross asshole tells the waiting parents if they don’t have fresh ice they will not get blood; by now all ice has melted, the people rush out in the rain to buy more. When they return the man tells them if the don’t have a ride out of the hospital they can’t get blood, all taxis have stopped running; a mother cries. Father Rick raises his hand. “I’ll take them all home” he says.

2am - Father Rick gets the other pint of blood and drives the people to different hospitals all over the city.

4:30am - Emmanuel’s surgery finishes it was a success, now we all wait and watch his recovery nervously.

All that money promised to Haiti and this is the reality. 1/3 of all donations given went to the Red Cross and there’s not a drop of blood here; it’s a crime. I hope they enjoyed their party because the fun part is definitely over.


  1. your tenacity is encouraging. i'm sure you hear this question all the time, and i certainly don't mean to be flippant-- what is the best way to help? which organizations are the best stewards, or do you have a fund directly, people can send $ to?

  2. Read your entire blog today. Write more please, we are listening. Can we send anything directly to you?

  3. I just read everything on this blog. I found it mysteriously by accident, but it was kind of a shock of realization to me that I almost felt like I needed to. Felt a stronger reality dawn on me, and for the period of time that you are undergoing or underwent seeing the period of time this was created, I can only commend you entirely. Makes my life feel belittled, I wish I could formulate a way to do these things for the world. Anyways, probably won't see this relatively soon, blog seems inactive... though, im humbled in abstract.