VANUATU EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR MARIE LOUISE GARAE WALKS AGAIN

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (February 28, 2000 - Vanuatu Weekly/PINA Nius Online)---It was a sight of emotion and relief for staff of the Port Vila Central Hospital and members of the family of Marie Louise Garae, who survived the collapsed wall of the Enna Church Building last November, to see her walk out of the hospital.

The 16-year-old teenager from Ambae, known as Louise, offered a shy smile when journalists and TV crews arrived as she was due to leave the hospital.

The hospital’s Dr. Robert Graces said Marie Louise fought back with success after intensive treatment and teamwork at Central Hospital.

"This is a case of cooperation from the staff of the hospital and members of her family, who devoted total commitment to help her recover," he said with emotion.

"At first we were not so sure whether she could pull through.

"I cannot remember how much blood transfusion we did, but if was a lot."

Marie Louise was treated for internal bleeding and brain damage during two months in the hospital. She went through three operations and, according to Dr. Graces, she will be going through one more later.

On the night of November 27, an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale devastated the island of Pentecost, causing the collapse of the building in which Louise and her group of Church of Christ youth from Ambae were gathered for evening worship.

Among those killed were two other teenagers from Ambae. One of them was Louise’s aunt.

Word of the incident reached the Vila Central Hospital, from which Dr. Graces and a few other medical staff were immediately airlifted to the island.

"I was on the chopper with Louise and our staff had to treat her immediately when we arrived back here," Dr. Graces said.

Nurse Winnie Matariki said most of the time they thought she would not make it. "We had to keep close to her at all times and always try to be accurate when reading her life-support equipment. Most times we had to call the doctor when we were not sure. We were always afraid we might loose her," she said.

Winnie and Philip Emile remained with young Louise constantly after she arrived from Pentecost. "Sometimes we doubled our shifts in order to be with her at all times," Emile told reporters.

A week after the incident, after Louise regained consciousness, the nurses advised members of her family that as much as she needed medical care she also needed a familiar voices close to her. Family members in Port Vila arranged for her sister, Florence, to be flown over.

"By the time I arrived I could not believe that she would live. It was hard for me," Florence told reporters. But it worked out well, she said, as Louise then showed signs of fast improvement.

"We must thank the staff of the hospital for looking after Louise and we are happy that she is finally walking home," said Valentine, matron of the Vila Central Hospital.

Louise was able to show the TV cameras that she had recovered when she got out of her bed and began walking a few feet with the help of a walking stick.

Meanwhile Louise, about to turn 17 years, will remain in Port Vila for a couple of weeks until she fully recovers.

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