When the disaster happened, my heart immediately went out to the people of Haiti. I wanted to go down and somehow help them, but I felt that it would be nearly impossible to set up such a trip. Classes at the University of South Florida, where I am majoring in biomedical sciences, had just begun. I had also recently started a job as an emergency room technician (after going to EMT school over the summer and receiving my license), and I wasn’t sure if my boss would let me take off work. But after receiving a call from my sister who encouraged me to at least find out if I would be able to go, I decided to give it a try. I made phone calls to my parents, friends, academic advisor, spiritual advisor, boss, and Fr. Scott Binet, MD,MI. Much to my surprise, everything worked out perfectly. Fr. Scott was more than happy to take me under his wing, my parents and friends supported me 100%, my boss let me take off as much work as I needed, and I could drop my classes at USF and take the semester off without any penalties or loss of scholarship.
I have now been in Haiti for a few days, and I am truly experiencing culture shock as I see how poor these people live. I have been to third-world countries before, such as Bosnia, but all those experiences pale in comparison to this.
One of the first things Fr. Scott had me do was to go out into the poor communities on the ambulance (nothing more than a small truck with a stretcher) and find sick and injured patients. On my first run we went to an extremely poor area where everybody was living in make-shift tents. As a young man led me to where there was an injured girl, the people crowded around me as if I were a celebrity. And on the way a little boy, no older than four, gave me a hug and held my hand as we walked. It was touching, to say the least. The girl that was injured appeared to have a fractured pelvis, so we loaded her on the ambulance. I then treated a few people with minor cuts and abrasions, cleaning their wounds as best I could and covering them with fresh dressings.
It’s amazing how simple things such as antibiotic ointment and band-aids, which we take for granted back home, are something these people have no access to. This increases the possibility of infection.
After loading a few more patients with potential fractures onto the ambulance, we headed back to the hospital. The hardest part about the ambulance run was trying to find out what was wrong with the people, because I had no translator. But at least by knowing the Creole word for pain, I was able to determine where the patients had pain and what provoked it.
Welcome to helping people in Haiti! Stay tuned.