Haiti doctors say man improving after reportedly trapped in quake rubble for 27 days

By Paisley Dodds, AP
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Haiti mystery patient recovering: Stable, eating

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A rice vendor who doctors say may have survived 27 days under the rubble after Haiti’s devastating earthquake was in stable condition and eating Wednesday.

Doctors were skeptical at first about the man’s story — people can survive as long as nine weeks without food, but die quickly without water. The last confirmed survivor was a 16-year-old girl removed from rubble 15 days after the Jan. 12 quake.

They turned into believers, however, after he became lucid enough to tell his tale. He told health care workers that he was selling rice in a flea market when the quake destroyed the building, trapping him under the debris — apparently along with water or food.

“He’s doing very well,” said Dr. David Chong, who was treating the man at a University of Miami Medishare field hospital in Haiti’s capital. “We’ve been giving him intravenous fluids and he’s tolerating them well. We also gave him a Hershey bar. He was pretty happy about that.”

The man — identified as 28-year-old Evans Monsigrace — had bad scrapes on his feet after being pulled from the rubble. He told doctors he lay on his side for much of the time, trapped in a small void in the remains of the market.

“He’s not going to be able to walk for a while, but he should have a full recovery,” Chong said.

Doctors planned to feed Monsigrace rice on Wednesday and possibly other foods in the coming days.

“He wants to go home,” Chong said.

Another physician, Dr. Dushyantha Jayaweera, said when Monsigrace first became lucid, he claimed he had not had any water or food. The man, however, had normal kidney function with heart palpitations, suggesting he at least had drank something but not enough to avoid getting dehydrated, Jayaweera said.

The man’s story began when two men delivered the vendor to a Salvation Army medical center in Port-au-Prince on Monday, saying he had been trapped since the earthquake. Dehydrated and malnourished with rail-thin legs, Monsigrace was later moved to the University of Miami hospital because of his critical condition. The man’s mother, who was at the field hospital, told workers that people clearing rubble downtown discovered him and alerted his brothers.

“He came in delirious, asking to die,” said Nery Ynclan, a University of Miami media officer in Haiti, noting that Creole translators were at the field hospital.

Video shot by Michael Andrew, an Arizona-based freelance photographer and a volunteer at the Salvation Army medical center, shows doctors trying without success to insert a needle into Monsigrace’s arm to give him fluid on Monday. Doctors then referred him to the field hospital at the airport, Andrew told The Associated Press.

The Salvation Army, in a brief posting on its Web site, said the two men, whom it didn’t identify, found Monsigrace in the debris of the market Monday. But Andrew said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear whether others had given him food and water, and that other details were unknown.

It also wasn’t clear why teams of international search and rescue workers were not alerted to Monsigrace’s presence in the wrecked market.

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