Providing medical relief work in developing countries is like a case of malaria. Once you’ve done it, it sits inside of you, waiting to re-infect. OK, bad analogy. Helping others is far more rewarding than fevers, chills and jaundice, but you get the comparison.
My friend Susie Foster is a registered nurse with three years experience in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, two years experience in pediatrics, a heart of gold — and a travel-bug that won’t go away.
Next month, she will take on possibly the biggest challenge of her nursing career. Susie, who has three stints as a prenatal caregiver in rural Guatemala under her belt, found herself between jobs just after the January 12 earthquake that leveled Haiti’s capital.
So, she accepted the challenge to organize a volunteer medical relief mission to Haiti, infected her medical-provider friends with her bug, and rallied medical professionals from the north state and beyond for the cause. From July 7 to 14, Susie and four other nurses, plus a doctor and a physician’s assistant, will provide medical care to victims of January’s Haitian earthquake, one of the world’s most devastating natural disasters.
They will spend a week at the Hopital Sacre Coeur in the small, northern, rural town of Milot (pronounced mee-LOH).
Another thing you will learn about Susie: She is subtly persuasive. She casually mentioned over lunch recently that it would be a good idea to have a journalist on the team to chronicle the journey. Hmmm, which innovative, adventurous north state media team should send a correspondent to Haiti?
I am excited to report that anewscafe.com is sending me to travel with the “North State for Haiti” medical relief team. Well, I’m excited, nervous, scared, unsure … I’ve traveled to East Africa, China, and many parts of the Caribbean, but I’m preparing myself for Haiti’s abject poverty, coupled with the destruction caused by Mother Earth’s most recent one-two punch to Haiti: January’s 7.0 tremor and and the island’s recent torrential rains.
As North State’s Haiti correspondent, I plan to update readers about the local team of medical professionals, report about the hospital’s ongoing relief work and give some insight about life for Haitians after the earthquake.
So, rather than reports of overcrowded prisons and looting that for so long dominated headlines, I hope to give anewscafe.com readers a sense of how people are responding to a tragedy that affected a nation’s consciousness. Even in far northern rural Haiti, a region that didn’t feel seismic activity, life was impacted by the after-effects of a natural disaster that killed, by some estimates, 300,000 Haitians.
In subsequent chapters of “To Haiti and Back,” I hope to tell a few stories about this country’s business owners, artists, clergy, and transplants. My hope is that north state residents see that we’re not that far removed from the people who lost family members and were displaced from their homes in a geographically-distant Caribbean nation.
Many of us have seen photos of Port-au-Prince’s devastation. The nation’s capital, only 25 miles from the epicenter, was leveled in the January 12 earthquake and its days of aftershocks. The lesser-known town of Milot, about 150 miles north of the epicenter and home to L’Hopital Sacre Coeur, was spared. Milot morphed, with the help of volunteers and international relief organizations, into one big hospital ward in the weeks following the disaster, as increasing numbers of patients traveled or were transported to Milot for care.
The north state medical volunteer team member participation was coordinated by the Center for Rural Development of Milot (CRUDEM) Foundation. CRUDEM operates and manages Hopital Sacre Coeur. Dubbed the “Mayo Clinic of Haiti” because of its shared principles of practice, education, mutual respect and societal commitment, Hopital Sacre Coeur provides healthcare to the poor of rural Haiti and, with the help of volunteer specialists, trains Haitian medical staff.
The hospital transformed two schools and utilized donated hospital tents to expand patient and operating-room capacity. That enabled the hospital to receive more than 500 patients from Port-au-Prince and perform 700 major operations in the five months since January. Patients have been tended by 1,000 volunteers, who arrive in weekly groups. In contrast, normal annual volunteer participation is 170, and the hospital performed 1,300 operations in all of 2009.
In addition to an inpatient medical facility, the hospital provides a mobile clinic, blood bank, HIV/AIDS prevention, a nutrition center and vaccinations.
Many of the reports and blogs I have read so far from volunteers praise the hospital’s resources. Some volunteers have written that the equipment at Hopital Sacre Coeur is better than what is available to patients in some U.S. hospitals.
My decision to travel to Haiti was fueled by my disappointment at the dwindling coverage in mainstrem media sources about how Haitians are coping and healing with life after the quake. Last Sunday’s New York Times Opinion page printed “Basics for Haiti,” a list of what needs to be mitigated, in the immediate, to keep people safe and to move forward with rebuilding after January’s devastating earthquake. This opinion piece recognizes, only briefly, that the list of individuals’ needs is “distressingly long” and that progress in Haiti has been “frustratingly slow.”
The country’s list of needs might be long, but the list of groups and relief organizations that continue to provide assistance to those now living in crowded, flooding tent camps, continues to grow. Although the devastation no longer occupies national headlines, Hopital Sacre Coeur continues to receive patients affected by the conditions in the capital, made worse by an excessive rainy season.
Before we leave for Haiti, the “North State for Haiti” medical relief team’s goal is to raise funds to provide medical supplies for Hopital Sacre Coeur. Each member of the team is responsible for his or her own transportation, and food and lodging are provided by CRUDEM, so any funds raised will contribute directly to the hospital’s wish list of medicine, patches, bandages, diapers, powdered milk and office supplies.
Please join us next week for an evening of wine tasting, food, live music by Andy Ooley, raffle, and silent art auction and help us make a contribution to CRUDEM.
Raffle and silent auction items include a private airline sightseeing trip for two, a day of boating on Shasta Lake, guided mountain bike and wine picnic, San Luis Obispo wine country getaway, wine tasting from Vintner’s Cellar, fly fishing float rip, plus gift certificates from local businesses and an incredible art auction with original work by regional artists.
“North State for Haiti” Team Members (r to l): Luke Rawlings, Susie Foster, Adam Mankoski, Stephanie Stringfield, Libby Hernandez. (Not Pictured): Cassie Burton, Emily Craft from Utah and Barbara Jordan from San Jose.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of “To Haiti and Back.” You’ll meet the “North State for Haiti” team, read about my aching tetanus-shot arm, learn how hard it is to find malaria medication in Redding, find out why Susie is packing an extra mosquito net, and follow the team as we prepare for the realities of volunteering in a developing nation, post-natural disaster.
What: Fundraiser for “North State for Haiti”
When: Tuesday, June 29 – 6:00 p.m.
Where: Vintage Wine Bar & Restaurant, 1790 Market Street, Redding
Featuring live music by Andy Ooley, silent auction, raffle and wine tasting. Funds benefit CRUDEM to purchase medical supplies for Hopital Sacre Coeur, Milot, Haiti.
The team is also accepting donations. Make checks payable to CRUDEM and send to P.O. Box 633, 215 Lake Blvd, Redding, CA 96003.
For more information about CRUDEM and Hopital Sacre Coeur, visit crudem.org.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your NorthState weekend events to firstname.lastname@example.org.