Drs. David Elias and Jason Higgins, orthopaedic surgeons from Thibodaux, along with 11 other medical professionals recently spent a week in Haiti taking care of those who survived the devastating earthquake. Their visit was a moving experience for all of them.
Dr. Elias has written down some of their experiences. The first part of his letter appeared in last week’s column. The following is his conclusion.
“Overall, the Haitian people were very resilient people. They had nothing before the earthquake, and now they have sustained more destruction on top of many health issues. On the last day in Haiti, we took a tour of the city to see the true destruction. With all due respect to local hurricane victims, the devastation in Haiti is beyond comparison to anything else I have ever seen.
“Prior the recent earthquake, the country had been hit by several powerful storms that destroyed many homes. Most of what was left in the region was crumbled by the quake. Most of the Haitians have lost their homes and are living in overcrowded tents. There is rubble all over the city, with no signs of people cleaning up the damage and rebuilding the city. They lack the equipment needed to move the massive tons of rubble.
“Certainly, seeing it in person was more profound than visions on television. The Haitian people are, for the most part, Christians. Another eye-opening experience was on Palm Sunday seeing all the people who live on the streets walking for miles to church. They were wearing dresses and suits and looking forward to their Sunday Mass.
“Another moving experience was while at the orthopaedic clinic, I was treating a 4-year-old girl who had had an above-the-knee amputation. We had given her crutches, and this was her first attempt at walking since her injury. The patient fell flat on her face.
“When I bent down to pick her up, she started laughing and thanked me for picking her up. It was another example of showing how resilient the Haitian people are.
“At the St. Damien’s facility, Father Rick still gets 80 dead bodies brought to the morgue weekly. He takes the bodies, carefully cleans them, and gives them a proper burial every Thursday.
“This was another eye-opening experience, since they are still finding dead people from the earthquake months after the event.
“The hospital also has an abandoned baby ward in which the hospital cared for those rejected by their mothers. They encourage the volunteers and mission workers to go to the ward to rock and feed the babies, since this is the only human nourishment they receive.
“Overall, the trip was a wonderful experience. It certainly opened our eyes to see how good we have it here in America, and how bad the situation is in Haiti.
“Despite the very long, hot and very tiring days, I feel like I received more from the mission trip than I actually gave to the community. I think that having the opportunity to take care of the Haitian community taught me more about my daily practice.”
David W. Elias, MD
With every crisis there is an opportunity to make a difference. This medical team did their share. They reached out to others as Jesus urged us, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40)
Most of us do not have the opportunity to go to Haiti but we still can support the efforts of others by our prayers and contributions.
This crisis has caught the attention of the whole world. The opportunity to turn the country around lies within our vision. Let’s focus on the possibilities!