The lead-up to this trip has been rough. Haiti has been experiencing escalating conflict for many months, and the decision to proceed with our trip was constantly in question. Many members of our team decided to stay home out of legitimate concerns for safety. Flights were delayed. Bull was hacking up a lung…then Crystal, then Betty. We lost a bag of supplies at the airport that held medications without which surgery is impossible (we later retrieved it). The bank account got hacked the day before we left (resolved, but time consuming).
But then our team landed in Haiti and we found what we always find: an incredible group of Haitian healthcare workers at Hôpital Bernard Mevs, a group that works tirelessly and skillfully to serve the severely injured in their community. A patient population that is strong and resilient and grateful and badly in need of care. An ability to adjust, overcome and carry on in a challenging healthcare setting. A familiar cat, that stays in the volunteer quarters and can’t get enough of our soft gauze in enormous plastic bags.
By the end of today, our team, with several brilliant, Haitian, surgical residents, will complete 20 surgeries. We will treat 25-year-old Joseph, who has been living with a badly infected knee for over a year. Joseph was a driven agricultural engineering student, but could not continue to study with the pain in his knee. He can’t wait to get back to classes. We operated on Jasmin’s femur, which was fractured in a car accident ten days ago. Until he heals, he’ll continue to worry about losing the masonry income he feeds his siblings with.
It’s an intense time to be in Haiti. Last Sunday was the 10-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed an estimated 200-300,000 people. A few of us were lucky enough to visit the memorial of the earthquake, located at the sight of a mass grave where victims are buried.
Nearly every person in this country mourns at least one loved one. An entire generation of nurses was lost when the nursing school collapsed. In less than 30 seconds, a country was transformed. Many say it will never recover.
But at 4:53 PM on Sunday, our team put down their scalpels and their drills and took a moment of silence to hold the earthquake victims, their families and all Haitians in our thoughts. And then we looked up to the sky to see a rainbow stretched wide and bright across the sky. There is hope everywhere here.