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L’Asile: Life in the midst of death

Minutes after the earthquake that shook Haiti, a pregnant woman emerged from the rubble of a hospital in one of the communes in the Nippes department where Cuban specialists have been working for two decades.


Anelí Ruiz García


The woman had been admitted to the maternity section and managed to escape through a small hole that was created when the second floor totally collapsed onto the first floor.

When she reached the outside, she was already in labour.

But she was not left alone. Luisa María Gesto was there, the Cuban pediatrician who today does not know if she could be her saviour again, deliver her son into the world again or smile with her again when she named the child. It was 14th August. They were intense moments and she spoke to Prensa Latina  about them.

When the woman managed to escape, Luisa María was attending to a child with a fractured skull who had arrived outside the hospital with his parents. After stabilising him, Luisa María began attending to the newborn.

‘The child was born with neonatal depression and we had to give him CPR, and wrap him up because he was hypothermic,’ she recalls.

The oxygen tank was inside the damaged hospital and, despite the fear of aftershocks, Luisa María and her fellow doctor Maykel del Prado recovered what they needed from the emergency room.

Ten long minutes later the baby started to cry, and his breathing and heart rate stabilised. There was hope, despite the violent earthquake that toppled many of this remote region’s houses in just a few seconds, along with the health facility where the Cuban Medical Brigade works.

With little time to celebrate victories, the small group made up of four doctors, two nurses and the same number of specialists began working in the outside areas of the medical institution, where dozens of people had gathered.

‘The population began to bring the injured with broken bones exposed, contusions, trauma injuries, and we attended to the injured alongside the residents themselves,’ recounts Maykel del Prado.

L’Asile was one of the areas worst affected by the movement of the Earth’s crust. The Civil Protection Department estimated that up to 50 people passed away and a further 750 suffered injuries among a population of no more than 40,000 inhabitants.

‘The town is destroyed, many of the houses have been flattened, many people are sleeping in the town square because they are afraid to return to the homes that are still standing,’ says the doctor.

Despite the material and human damage, the physicians continue attending to those who come to the hospital grounds and they run mobile clinics for those unable to leave their regions.

While we were speaking, the townspeople brought another pregnant woman in. “I have to go now,” said Luisa María, ‘but we will keep going here for as long as they need us.’ She hangs up and, once again, brings to life another life. (PL)

(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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