Sunday 17 November 2019

Teenager's survival after 15 days 'medically inexplicable'

Vivian Sequera in Port-Au-Prince

STUNNED, bruised, and traumatised, but most of all alive, that was the miracle after more than two weeks buried under tonnes of rubble.

Just about everyone had given up hope -- except the 16-year-old Darlene Etienne herself.

Last night she surprised doctors once more when she proved herself able to eat yogurt and mashed vegetables. The medical professionals for once were in broad agreement that her survival was "medically inexplicable". They described her condition yesterday as "stable".

The rescue of Ms Etienne on Wednesday from a collapsed home near St Gerard University, 15 days after Haiti's great quake killed an estimated 200,000 people, was the first such recovery since Saturday, when French rescuers extricated a man from the ruins of a hotel grocery store.

Etienne is stable, drinking water and eating yogurt and mashed vegetables, said Dr Evelyne Lambert, who has been treating the girl on the French Navy hospital ship Sirocco, anchored off the shore of Port-au-Prince. Lambert said that Etienne now had a 90pc chance of survival.

"We cannot really explain this because that's just (against) biological facts," Dr Lambert told a news conference. "We are very surprised by the fact that she's alive. She's saying that she has been under the ground since the very beginning on the 12th of January so it may have really happened -- but we can not explain that."

Authorities say it is rare for anyone to survive more than 72 hours without water, let alone 15 days. But Etienne may have had some access to water from a bathroom of the wrecked house, and rescuers said she mumbled something about having a little Coca-Cola with her in the rubble.

Her family said Etienne had just begun studies at St Gerard when the disaster struck. "We thought she was dead," said cousin Jocelyn A St Jules.

Then -- a half-month after the earthquake -- neighbours heard a voice weakly calling from the rubble of a private home down the road from the destroyed university. They called authorities, who brought in the French civil response team.

"She was in very bad shape," French search and rescue team member Dr Claude Fuilla, who rescued the teenager, said yesterday. "We had to rehydrate her for 15 minutes before flying her by helicopter to the Sirocco."

Fuilla said Etienne did not suffer a broken leg, as was first reported, but that both legs were trapped under debris.

"Both legs are very sore," he said.

"Now, her condition is stabilised. She is speaking. She is not very lucid, but she is okay."

The same upbeat outlook was not shared by hundreds of thousands of other survivors who clung onto a breakthrough of another kind -- the delivery of badly-needed food aid.

After weeks of chaos and bickering last night key players in the Haiti earthquake relief effort met, in what may prove to be a pivotal meeting.

It has been decided to better co-ordinate efforts which have been criticised for being disjointed and inept.

Irish Independent

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