Children's Hospital was gearing up overnight for the expected arrival today of 53 Haitian orphans.
Additional pediatricians, emergency room doctors and nurses are at Children's awaiting the arrival of the children, who boarded a military plane late last night in a rescue mission that presented a number of security and logistical hurdles, hospital officials said early this morning.
The original plane carrying a medical team, as well as Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, was forced to take off without the children, so the group stayed behind and managed to secure a C-130 military plane.
Security hurdles, caused in part by reports about the mission by the media, made it impossible for the group to get the children aboard within the two-hour window they had been given to be on the ground in Haiti, according to Paul Wood, vice president of public relations for UPMC.
"Word leaked and security at the compound [where the orphans were located before being taken to the airport] became compromised by the incredible needs of others," he said.
But the group was able to secure the C-130, which left Port-au-Prince at 11:23 p.m., carrying the children, the governor, Mr. Altmire and caregiver Ali McMutrie, one of the two Ben Avon sisters who ran the orphanage and refused to leave the country without the children, according to Mr. Wood.
Mr. Wood did not know whether other children and Ms. McMutrie's sister Jamie were still in Haiti.
The plane was headed for Homestead Airforce base near Miami, where officials were arranging transport to Pittsburgh. Their arrival time is unknown, as are the medical conditions of the children. Those in the worst condition could be taken to the hospital by ambulance, while others will be shuttled by bus, with police escort.
Once at Children's, doctors and nurses will quickly triage them and take them to a "comfort room," where they can change and rest, said hosptial president Chris Gessner. In the comfort room, workers with Allegheny County Children Youth and Families will start to prepare them for foster placement.
Some of the children's health problems might warrant a hospital stay, but doctors hope to keep them no longer than 24 hours, officials said.
Chief Medical Officer Steven Docimo said the hospital is handling the orphans' arrival as a mass casualty situation, which employees are well trained to handle.
Sadie Gurman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878. First Published January 19, 2010 6:45 AM