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January 22nd, 2010
05:17 PM ET

Children in Haiti

By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

For two days, he walked around with a little piece of paper taped to his shirt that read “Sean,” but his name isn’t really “Sean.” No one’s sure of his name, or how old he is, but Sean appears to be around eight. He’s one of several orphans who somehow ended up at this makeshift hospital near the airport I’ve been reporting from for two days.

An orphan at a makeshift hospital was given the name Sean. His real name is unknown.

The doctors here have really tried to take these orphans under their wings, getting them pain medications and dressing their wounds – Sean has a bandaged wrist and a bandaged head – but it’s impossible to be with them all the time, as they’re tending to more than 200 patients. This means Sean’s left on his own for periods of time, and he has trouble eating by himself. Since he has fractures in both wrists he has trouble holding a bottle of water or opening up a granola bar, one of the few things to eat here.

Sometimes when nobody else is nearby to help, my team and I feed Sean, holding up his water bottle to his mouth, or opening the granola bar wrapper. We’re not aid workers, but we’re here, right next to him. Thursday night Sean planted himself between me and CNN Medical Producer John Bonifield as we wrote our story. I think he liked our computer, or perhaps our company. Now it’s 2:30 Saturday morning, and I’m looking at Sean right now, sleeping on the floor. Wait a minute – now he’s stirring, crying out something in his sleep. Now he’s sitting up, now he’s wandering around crying. A nurse came to talk to him, asking him in Creole if he was in pain, but he didn’t seem to give much of an answer, and she had to go off to another patient. He kept crying and wandering around, and a second nurse is now giving him pain medication. He’s still wandering around crying; it seems there’s not much anybody can do.

Eline, an eight year old girl with fractured legs, was also alone here at this hospital for several days, but unlike Sean she can’t move around, so she was drenched in her own urine for days. The hospital hasn’t had the manpower to do things like clean up orphans, but Friday morning a volunteer from the University of Miami came to change her clothes. The only problem was the volunteer didn’t have any clothes to change her into, so she came over to me and John and asked if there were any extra hospital scrubs. Of course there weren’t – there’s not much extra of anything around here – so I gave her a t-shirt I’d brought with me. Then the volunteer realized she didn’t have anything to clean her with, so John gave her a pack of his baby wipes.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and retired NBA star Alonzo Mourning at a makeshift hospital in Haiti

Several hours later, a man came in with a photo of a little girl, asking if anyone had seen her. He’d been to the morgue, he’d been to other hospitals, he’d been everywhere, but he couldn’t find his daughter. Miraculously, he turned out to be Eline’s father. She’s not an orphan after all. Eline’s mom and dad are now with her, by her side as she recovers.

A few hours ago, a new orphan came in to take her place. I’m watching her sleep right now, the thin blue blanket that lays on top of her rises and falls as she breathes.

What will happen to these parentless children after they leave here? I asked Dr. Barth Green, who’s heading up this operation by the University of Miami. “They’ll probably be taken in by another family and made a slave. That’s what happens,” he says. He vows to make sure that won’t happen to the orphans under his care.

By the way, while I was typing away on my laptop a few hours ago, I heard a voice ask me for my used bottle of water today. I looked up – way up – and saw former NBA player Alonzo Mourning looking at me. Mourning is a friend of Green’s, and he flew down here to do what he could to help out. He helped administer IV’s, he’s been playing with Sean, and collected bottles to be cut up to use for splints. I know he’s a basketball player but to me he’s a rock star.

It’s now late morning on Saturday. I found a doctor who could translate what Sean’s been telling us into English. Why is he wandering around? He says he’s been looking for his mother and father.

Filed under: Elizabeth Cohen • Haiti Quake
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Dan Nelson Lafayette,IN

    Come on people I'm sure that we can find hundreds of thousands of people who could afford to adapt these orphans from Haiti and give them a better life! France should be the first to start a pr campaign to find families that would help these Haiti orphans and we should also.

    January 22, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  2. Adejumo Oyeleye

    I thank you all for your effort, Helping in Haiti!
    You will all be Blessed in abordant!
    My LISA and myself,
    WE Love you all!
    Our Children!!!
    Yours Faithfully,
    Adejumo Oyeleye (the JAH!)

    January 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  3. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    I think that the work that CNN is doing is great but besides the needs for children. The needs for woman, the elderly and the community of People with Disabilities are at risk. I wonder if Ms. Elizabeth Cohen has the time to cover these topics.

    January 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  4. tony

    Hi there , anyways haiti has a shipping port why dont they get rid of the tents and stack the containers2 to 3 high and build make shift stairs,and put beds and familys in them because they would be out of the elements and safe, just my thought

    January 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    Tony, I believe that containers are in the water of the port. These containers get extremely hot. I believe that the tents are the best choice and way to keep people protected from the increments. The shipping port was affected. Without equipment they cannot stack containers 2 to 3 high nor build a make shift stairs. It is a good idea but the lack of material and equipment. Your idea is good.

    January 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  6. Randy N

    I do not if you will,but I am very good in helping out. I can get things done cause I want to help. It seems that Haiti needs more than politics wants to do. Although I am in UT I would go Don't know how I would get their not being employed doesn't help much, but you could send me. I hate suffering all I want to do is help out.

    January 24, 2010 at 12:19 am |