Earthquake Relief Trip to HaitiEarthquake Relief Trip to Haiti Date: Jan 19, 2010 to Jan 27, 2010
The earthquake happened on January 12, 2010 in the late afternoon. CNN was reporting tremendous damage to the City of Port-au-Prince, Leogane and d Carrefour. Thousands of people were trapped underneath the rubble and tens of thousands were already dead. There was a little girl age 10 with braids in her hair whose leg was trapped but she appeared to be in good spirits. Millions of people watch CNN as this little girl drank water from a water bottle and was finally freed from the concrete blocks that entrapped her. The bad news would come days later that she had died. There were not enough doctors, nurses and medical supplies to provide for her as she was treated in a first aide center. She would die from the complications of crushing injuries and her kidneys and circulation would shut down because of lack of acute supportive care.
She died on January 17th, just five days after the major earthquake shock that would decimate approximately one-third of the country. I was convicted that I as a medical doctor would have to find a way to Haiti. After discussing this with my wife, Jacqueline, she agreed that one of us should go at this time. I prayed on it and ask God to provide a way for me to help the people of Haiti during this crisis. In Church, Pastor Rouse spoke about a charter plane that was approved by Hillary Clinton and that medical personnel s were needed to go along. I signed the list and waited for a phone call from the Missions Pastor Dennis Russell.
The phone call finally came a little after midnight 12:30am on January 19, 2010. Pastor Russell told me to call the Team Leader for the non-profit organization “Hospitals for Humanity (HH)” Segun Ajayi and see if he could use me on this trip. The HH had recently returned from Nigeria where they had treated over 10,000 people in less than 8 days. I left Segun a message and he returned my call one hour later at 2:00am in the morning. He said with my Emergency Room experience that he could use me as a part of the medical team. Jackie and I immediately started to make preparations as I would have to be on a plane to Miami in less than 12 hours. We secured a 2:30pm flight to Miami and we packed for the unknown. We were anticipating setting up camp on the compound of the Grace International Orphanage where approximately 10,000 people were camping outside who had lost their homes.
The HH had assembled a medical team of 35 doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and registered nurses with skills in trauma management and emergency care. It was now official the Lord had provided a way for me to go to Haiti and to provide care for them. Duane, my second son woke me up that morning at 7:45am to bid me farewell as he was on his way to the American Intercontinental University to school. We told him about my trip and he said he would pray for me during the trip. Jackie and I studied our morning devotion and then I headed out to Costco to pick up supplies for the trip. I had a meeting scheduled with First Quality Healthcare Hospice (FQHC) at 11:00am. I did not want to cancel so I called the Director of Nursing and told her to push it back to 12:00 noon and that the meeting would be cut to one hour. She agreed and called back and told me she had taken up a small collection from the office for hand sanitizers, wet wipes, masks and Vicks vapor rub supplies I would need. The Lord was working miracles for this trip.
I left the FQHC meeting and drove to South Fulton Hospital where Jackie would meet me and take me to the Airport. We were on the 8th day of our 21 day fast of solely fruits, veggies and water and I was feeling real good. I was told to break the fast because fasting was not advised on a mission trip where we were unsure of what amenities were available for food and water. Jackie gave me her camera and told me she loved me and I headed into the terminal. I called Lorenzo Anderson PA-C and asked him to cover my hours in the clinic and he agreed without hesitation. He was between jobs and needed the hours. The Costco pharmacist prioritized my malaria prophylaxis medication, the skycap did not charge me for additional weight on my luggage and the security officer allowed me to past with 8 ounces of toothpaste and 6 ounce of face wash and the vapor rub after it was spotted on the x-ray machine. I told her that I need the vapor rub to blunt the smell of human remains in Haiti. She re-scanned my bag and told me she saw the devastation on CNN and then put the supplies back into my bag. The Lord knew I would need those supplies and he allowed me to past through security with it.
I text Pastor Russell and told him what seat number I was in. To my surprised he turned around and from the very seat in front of me and greeted me. He was with the videographer, Chris Obrist from Victory World Church. Pastor Russell had not slept well either with all the quick planning so we decided that we would talk when we got to Miami. I reflected on the way God had worked these small miracles to make it possible for me to travel to Haiti. I waited with much anticipation as to the blessings we were about to receive for contributing our time and skills to the people of Haiti.
While at the Miami airport, I met all the medical team who were selected by the HH organization. Dr. Rodney Alford, Med/Peds physician, Dr. Ed Jones, orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Donald Roland, anesthesiologist, Dr. Nick Johnson, ER trauma surgeon, Dr. Suzette Clements, Podiatrist, Dr. Charles Martin, Emergency Room physician, an ophthalmologists, two Obstetricians, and Uche Aningo, Addie Augeung Physician Assistants, Else Joseph, Hurline Saint Fleur, Nurse Practitioners and several Registered Nurses. The majority of the medical team came from Illinois, Georgia and Florida. Many of them had never been on a mission trip before and others were seasoned missionary medical personnel. This was my 10th trip, but my first in an earthquake crisis. The medical team totaled 35 members armed with medical supplies provided by their respective hospitals, foundations and gifts from philanthropists and well meaning people.
We arrived in Port- au -Prince the capital of Haiti in the evening time and waited for our transportation. It would be several hours as we waited on the tarmac. Finally, we were instructed to get into several SUVs. Our drive to the outskirts of the capital city was about 1 and ½ hours to Trout baguette, a city close to St. Mark. We arrived at the home of the Chantal Papp, an affluent Haitian and the mother of Richard Papp, a Morehouse student. We pulled out our sleeping bags and lay it anywhere there were spaces. At 6:00am we were awoken by a shaking of the Earth. Another earthquake that would cause more devastation in the capital city by another earthquake. It lasted only seconds I was so tired from being up all night that it did not faze me as I drifted back to sleep. I would found out later that several buildings would have fallen and caused additional damage and deaths in Port- au- Prince.
On Wednesday morning the group split into different teams to prepare for the next day. Segun, Michael, Richard, Pastor Dennis, Mia and I along went out to Port-au-Prince to do a damage assessment. The others stayed behind and sorted the supplies into surgical and medical allotments. We visited the General Hospital where the bulk of the injured were taken. I experienced several dead bodies on the road and several containers on the side of the road with smoke coming from them. These were apparently the site of where many dead caucuses were being burnt. The devastation was intense as we went through the city. We observed many collapse buildings including the Presidential Palace, the Parliaments, and several other governmental buildings. There were many areas of concrete rubble with rescue teams surrounding them looking for trapped victims. There were many international medical relief teams in different parts of the city who had set up make shift hospitals in deserted areas. We met teams from Israel, Singapore, Germany, and Japan. We then went to Carrefour, the site of the Orphanage that the Victory World Church supports. Michael, the son of the owner of the orphanage took us around and showed us the areas of the orphanage that were damaged. In the yard were several thousands of people with make shift tents, made from sheets and sticks. They were all displaced from the Earthquake. Our plan was to set up a clinic right on the site of the orphanage and also to send a team to the General Hospital.
On Thursday, January 21st, we got up at 4:30am and waited till 10:00 for the charter bus to arrive. We dropped off the team who would work at Carrefour orphanage and the other team went on to the General Hospital. I was part of the team that went to the hospital, at the time of our arrival most of the patients were post operative, had surgery already and needed after surgery care. The ward was filled with patients whom had amputations of arms and legs. I got a creepy feeling walking though the post operative ward as I wondered just how many of them actually would have had such a drastic treatment if they were in the US. The patients were mostly stable because the team of doctors already stationed at the hospital had attended to them. We mostly spent the day looking around the hospital and waited for patients to arrive in the Emergency Area. Segun and I discussed with the hospital medical Director how we could best be of assistance. They decided that they really needed us to staff the pre-operative and post-operative area as well as the emergency area. The surgical and Emergency medical professionals were left behind to man the operating rooms, the pre-operative and post-operative areas. The team from Carrefour and myself went back to Trout Baguette. By the time we got back to Trout Baguette, it was already 8pm, we had dinner together, while we discussed the day and included plan for the next day.
Friday , January 22, 2010, I stationed in Carrefour and lead a team of one Haitian doctor, a nurse practitioner and a nurse, we saw patients from infants to adults with different acute illness, including severe dehydration, high grade fever, dysentery and major infections. The cases were each unique and most required intensive care, to the best of our abilities, we provided aggressive treatment considering the limited resources we had available. The day ended at night fall, we found out later one that some members of team had to return to the states.
I didn’t feel that I had accomplished enough. I looked around and saw all the people who still needed help, I had a hard time leaving them unattended. When Pastor Russell asked me to help a group of orphans in Leoganes who survived the earthquakes and needed medical care, I jumped to the occasions after more than 85 kids that I had to leave untreated.