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Change of Plans

February 5, 2010

I was packed and ready to head to the airport yesterday, February 2, 2010 at about 8 am.  The plan was to go to the airport early and hopefully get on the first military flight.  There are no commercial planes, and there are military flights that are bringing cargo and other items in.  Once they land, they take US citizens back to the United States and drop you somewhere in Florida (I heard it was Orlando) and from there you have to find your way home.  Richard Morse, founder of RAM, owner of the Hotel Oloffson, and a good friend, has been under the weather for the past 8 days with a serious case of kidney stones (the timing is impeccable).  One of the doctors from the medical team I’ve blogged about earlier, Dr. Binard, has been treating Richard at the hotel.  We had IV’s hooked up to a fan, Richard lying in his house for the first time (remember, we all sleep on the streets still), and the doc checking on him every 2-4 hours for four days straight.  On Sunday Dr. Binard had to get back to the United States.  Richard had been feeling better but then would fall in and out of the intense pain, mostly on, throughout the night and into the evening.  We went to the DMAT military base, spoke with Dr Brian Crawford at General Hospotal and eventually I got Richard to the L’hopital Urgence triage center.  The advice and unanimous decision was to get him to a doctor immediately, considering we no longer had a doctor to treat him and urologists are a rare breed right now.  I spoke with 5 doctors that day and a slew of military folks.  After a long day of piecing together information and waiting for most of the day we went back to the hotel with a plan…Richard was to get on a plane and head to the US for proper treatment.

Here’s Where the Change of Plans Kick In…

We were all set to go when Richard’s wife, and lead singer of RAM, asked me to come right away.  He could not get dressed and was experiencing intense pain.  Heading back to the US in his condition was no longer an option and I began coordinating once again.  I made a few phone calls and was able to get him onto the USNS comfort.  We (Richard and I) waited at the US Airforce military compound at Ciment Varreux.  We got there at about 10 a.m. and Richard was taken by helicopter to the Comfort at about 3ish.  There wasn’t enough space for me so I stayed behind and got on a helicopter at about 5.

Richard on a stretcher leaving the Air Force base in Haiti.  Next stop: The USNS Comfort.

This is where I was told to stop…I would have to take the next helicopter.

Another World…

My first helicopter ride.  My first time on a ship.  My first time seeing an extremely coordinated relief operation.  From the moment we got to the ship protocol and procedures were in place.  Doctors, nurses, translators, and an upbeat morale filled the room, alongside patients, amputees, babies, those waiting to be seen, and those who have been seen.  The people working on the ship created an environment that almost felt surreal.  Babies were smiling and playing and bonds were being formed.  It was a lot different than the environment on the ground.  Aside from the electricity and talk of hot showers there was another luxury: the care the people were getting.  Nurturing, compassionate, loving, quality care were all immediately visible.  Not only were Navy doctors compassionate and caring, you also had the volunteers comforting and talking to patients in kreyol.  You have volunteers rubbing your back and someone is with you 24 hours a day with the shift rotations in each ward.  It truly is a floating hospital, and the kindest hospital I have seen thus far.

Here are a few photos from the helicopter ride from Ciment Varreux to the USNS Comfort

A Different Night…

While I waited in the ward for Richard to have his procedure done I met several Haitian and Haitian/American volunteers.  They have not left the ship since coming to Haiti, and so I was able to share pictures and my experience with them.  They were also able to share their experiences and frustrations while being on the boat.  I tried to comfort them by explaining to them how difficult coordination and information (reliable information) is on the ground in Haiti.  The ship may seem far away from the shores, but lots of people are being treated here- in a capacity, and with capabilities I have yet to see.  While I waited for Richard I fell asleep for a few hours.  I woke up at 2 am to the sounds of a woman crying and rocking across from me.  I spoke with her and hugged her and rubbed her back.  Her 9-month-old baby died in her arms.  For a few minutes I kept her still with a hug, made sure she drank a bottle of water and gave her comfort.  She had just gotten on the ship that day.  Realizing that Richard never made it to the ward that I was in, I inquired about his condition and whereabouts and was moved to where he was recuperating and resting.  This morning he was feeling much better, without the intensity of kidney stone pain, and later this morning I noticed that he managed to shave.  The patients and volunteers on the boat were excited to have Richard there.  He is a celebrity in Haiti and so while he lay with an IV in his arm and after he got better, he was taking photos with the volunteers, the doctors and shaking hands and greeting the patients.

Richard with the Urologist before being wheeled into surgery

Everywhere I turn in my new living quarters on the ship there are severely injured people.  If they did not get the care that they are receiving now, they would not have made it otherwise.  In our bunk bed corner on the far left of the entrance, our new neighbors include a woman who had an above the leg amputation on both legs.  A Haitian Grandpa who has lost an eye, has that raspy, no teeth Grandpa voice; a young man with a foot injury and a woman who has been silent and has not been able to move since I have moved in.  As I sit here and type I am playing Haitian music off of my computer.  We’re all tapping our hands, feet, and enjoying the music.  They haven’t heard Haitian music since they’ve been on the ship and neither have I.  Feeling grateful…

This woman has a long journey ahead of her and has so much courage and strength.  She lost both of her legs above the knee.  We took a quick photo before Richard was discharged from the USNS Comfort.  So much beauty and love and light.

Thank you to all of the amazing doctors, volunteers, staff, patients, and military officers.  Heroes are everywhere in Haiti, including the USNS.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. ubuntu6249 permalink
    February 5, 2010 6:37 am

    Peace, email me at We’d like to ask about you allowing us to post your articles/journals on our website!

    Hope all is well!

  2. October 26, 2010 3:57 pm

    bunk beds should be made from strong materials like steel or better yet composite fibers:*-

  3. November 13, 2010 6:32 pm

    bunk beds are quite comfortable specially if you use them in a tightly packed room or in a limited spaced room *::


  1. Global Voices Online » Haiti: Heroes
  2. Haiti: Heroes

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