Germain in Haiti: Life may be precarious, but it does go on

Even in a city where abandoned babies are far from rare, Anthony Germain is struck by the resilience of people overcome by the massive earthquake of four years ago.
Many dwellings, including this residence near the hospital where Newfoundland's Team Broken Earth is working, are still cracked and dilapidated since the massive earthquake struck Haiti four years ago. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

[Anthony Germain is on a week-long assignment covering Team Broken Earth, a group of Newfoundland and Labrador nurses and doctors, in Haiti. Each day, Anthony will file observations of what he sees; you can hear his reports on the St. John's Morning Show.]

Day 4

April 1 (or 2), just past midnight. Admin office, Hospital Bernard Mevs. 

Pediatrician Leigh Ann Newhook managed to convince a number of otherwise intelligent members of Team Broken Earth that the Avalon Mall had been destroyed during the snowstorm that hit St. John’s yesterday. 

Janeway pediatrician Natalie Bridger, from St. John's, cradles a newborn who was abandoned at the Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-au-Prince. (Anthony Germain/CBC)
Not sure if it’s the time zone, the heat and sun, the busy-ness of this place, but many bought it (including me) until the April 1 date exposed her ruse. 

Sick children be warned: Dr. Newhook is shockingly skilled at deception. Journalists are supposed to sniff out this kind of mischief; I failed the smell test.

Dr. Newhook’s pediatric pal, Dr. Natalie Bridger, never uttered the words “April Fools.”  These two Janeway docs are so in sync with each other about, well, everything, you’d think they were telekinetic twins. 

Once the clowning around was over, I finally got to talk to them inside their ward. Dr. Bridger recounted a telling story. A sick and premature newborn was revived and cared for, but when the father arrived here to discover there was a medical bill, he indifferently asked the staff, “Why would I pay for something so small?” He left without the tiny child.

This week I’ve seen abandoned babies, deformed infants, car accident victims and far too many amputations. The buildings around the medical compound show evidence of the earthquake in 2010 that created an international response, including the creation of the Newfoundland team.

But I wonder: Does the name “Broken Earth” still fit? And that question does not diminish the fine work I’ve seen these Newfoundland nurses and doctors perform this week. But, Haiti is moving forward.

Consider Wilfrid Macena’s story. He runs the prosthetics lab here at the compound.  During the quake four years ago, he lost his right leg after a brick wall collapsed and the bricks and mortar fell upon him. He later designed and built his own new leg and he has gone on to make and custom fit feet, legs, and arms for many people who have lost their limbs since the earthquake. 

As Wilfrid says, “life goes on”.   

But in Haiti life is precarious. And, every day it is cut short from road accidents injuries, gunfire, and preventable diseases.  Regardless of its name, I like the way one of Broken Earth’s doctors described the group’s long-term goal : “Ultimately, we want to do ourselves out of this job.” 

Wilfrid Macena lost his right leg in the devastating 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti. He designed and built his own prosthetic and has gone into business making artificial limbs for people with serious injuries. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

About the Author

Anthony Germain

CBC News

Anthony Germain cohosts Here & Now in Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a former host of the St. John's Morning Show and CBC Radio's The House, and is CBC's former correspondent in China.