Sen. Nelson visits Haitian quake victims in Fla.

Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 10:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 10:19 p.m.

MIAMI — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday asked Florida's 13 children's hospitals to be prepared to receive young Haitian patients who were critically injured in this week's deadly earthquake.

"The idea would be to take care of their medical needs and then be able to return to them to their families at a later date in Haiti," Nelson said at a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Nelson asked the state's children's hospitals to be ready to act as they would in a domestic disaster. Florida's facilities are "uniquely equipped" to handle children who suffered traumatic injuries in the Caribbean nation's devastating earthquake, said the Florida Democrat.

"The stories that we're going to hear coming out of Haiti over the next several days are just going to be mind-boggling and the need for medical care is going to be continuous," Nelson said. "And that's why, especially with regard to children, we've got to step up."

Jackson Health System had treated 23 patients who were injured during Tuesday's quake, according to Dr. Nicholas Namias, a trauma surgeon. Most were treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital and some remained in critical condition. It was unclear how many children were treated at the medical center.

Nelson met with two patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital, including 7-year-old Karim Apollon, who watched a small DVD player while his father explained that the boy was inside the family's home when the earthquake hit.

"Are they taking good care of you here?" Nelson asked the boy, who fractured his skull. "Well, you look good. You look real good."

The boy's parents weren't with him during Tuesday's earthquake. Jean-Marc Apollon said he was already in South Florida, where his wife had received treatment following a car crash.

"I think I'm blessed," Jean-Marc Apollon said. "I'm thankful to be probably one of the few lucky ones."

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chris Thomas of Weston told Nelson that he climbed out of the ruins of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince with only a pair of shorts and his wedding ring. Thomas, who turned 46 on Friday, spoke with Nelson from his hospital bed, and said he heard no screams or cries for help immediately after the quake.

"The building went down and it was just, it was silence," Thomas said. "I think the whole country was stunned."

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