12 Feb 2010

My first mission trip – Relief work in Haiti

Upon hearing of the devastation and high casualty rate in Haiti after the earthquake, one simple thought came to mind!!  I have to get down there!!   I have the ability to help and there is no reason I should not or cannot get there!   This is my duty, my moral obligation…….. I thought, I will get there at any cost…….  and I did and what I experienced forever changed me…….

Due to the logistical complications of getting into Port Au Prince after the earthquake, I was able to book a trip into Cap Haitian and from there catch a two hour ride to Milot for work at a rather nice community hospital called Sacre Cour……  I was to be working with an organiztion called the Crudem Foundation… This organization was well established in the community and had partnered up with the hospital and community years back providing volunteers and helping run the hospital…..  Upon arrival, it was obvious the hospital had been taking in large numbers of refugees from Port Au Prince daily and was in great need of help in order to handle this influx of patients…….

I arrived in early afternoon and what I saw simply caught me short of breath….   I arrived to literally find a MASH type unit set up with four tents of 40 + patients with ailments ranging from crush injuries to burns to gross gangrene.   The staff already in place looked overwhelmed and a bit haggard but hard at work and focused on the tasks at hand…  I was shuffled into the volunteer quarters made up of an outdoor shack with numerous tents scattered about….. Orientation was  brief and it was obvious everyone was working out of their element…..  I was assigned tent four which was made up of 47 patients many with severe crush injuries and a few severe burns….   One physician was signed to each tent along with two nurses and a tech.  There was no turnover of patients between staff   as the doctor in charge of the tent prior had left the day before…….

After a brief orientation to operations, our week began…..     My first three patients included a young 17 year old boy with  a comminuted femur fracture who had lost his entire family in the quake, the second a older 47 year old gentleman who had bilateral femur fractures and severe burns to his face and scalp, the third was a 23 year old with multiple thoracic and lumbar fractures……   and  thus the list went on with similar type injuries….     I was immediately impressed by the courage and strength of these patients…..no matter their injury or their loss, they always smiled when I approached their bedside and seemed so thankful for the attention brought to them…. I immediately felt attached to them and over the next few days came to care very deeply for all of them……   One thing was very clear as well, this is the type of work I was born to do and it was from this point on that I made a promise to myself  that I would do so…….

As the week went on,  we volunteers serving together  became very close…..  We became a team despite having little experience in this sort of work……  Not only did we come together, but the community of Milot as well as the patients, all came together in our relief efforts!!  Patients helping care for other patients….  The 17 year old boy I served with often joined me on my rounds and helped me greatly in addressing the large amount of wound care needs of the patients in my tent….

Despite long days and nights, I awakened  every morning  with an energy and true sense of purpose that carried me through the day……. By the end of the week, I was ready to do more!!  Sadly though, duty called back home and I left Haiti along with most of the rest of the team, as a new round of volunteers came in to replace us…..

After reflecting back on such a week, I realized that the wonderful team and courageous patients I had met, had given me something so unexpected —- the realization that service to others is the greatest purpose of man!!   I’ve taken seven more trips to Haiti since then with other trips to Honduras, Kenya, Peru and Brazil and I still feel the same!

Adam Beckett