Haiti may have 3,000 post-quake amputees

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Around 3,000 people have been amputated in Port-au-Prince due to the Jan. 12 devastating earthquake, an official with a non-governmental organization (NGO) told Xinhua on Saturday.

"We have been to 17 hospitals and to many more tent cities," said Al Ingersoll, a prosthetist who works for Handicap International, an NGO specialized in the field of disability.

He declined to mention what percentage of the patients might die. He said the key risk came from the method of "guillotine" used to remove limbs in emergency situations.

He said "guillotine," which cuts off a limb and leaves an open wound, is the standard procedure in a war or an extreme emergency, but is not used in modern medicine.

It is used when doctors do not have time to ensure whether the wound is entirely clean of dead flesh that might continue rotting and start a dangerous cycle of reinfection.

Some people who have fractured bones and infections are not going back to the hospital, said Ingersoll in a one-on-one interview at the NGO campsite close to Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport. But doing so means that they could get much more serious infections and are more likely to need a second amputation or to die, he added.

Furthermore, many amputees with open wounds left for the countryside when the government offered free transport to unaffected areas in the north and east of the country, during the worst of the crisis. The government estimates that some 160,000 people had left on the occasion and some 10,000 people left afterward, even though they must pay for transport.

"People that have broken bones and find treatment will survive," Ingersoll said. "It is hard to say the same for those that stay away from hospital, whether they are unwilling or because they have fled to an area from which they cannot return."


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