I remember the smell of the decaying bodies under buildings to this day, I remember bodies lying by the side of the road, I remember the horror of dump trucks needed to clear the bodies from the streets, and I remember the mass gravesite where they lay. I remember the patients lying in city hospital parking lots with gangrene infested wounds and more infections ensuing. I remember the tears in the eyes of our security guard as he told us he lost his 4 children. I remember my co-worker telling me that his daughter was stuck under a building for four days and I remember my friend who was trapped in his school building while he listened to his classmates die one by one.
In 2010 I was the Medical Coordinator of a mission clinic in the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince Haiti. It was this mighty little clinic that stood while others fell, it was this mighty little clinic that treated over 150 dying and injured people in the first few hours after the destruction. We had limited support and little pain medication. It was in this mighty little clinic that I saw more pain and injury than I care to see in over a lifetime or that I care to describe to you. It was in this mighty little clinic that I did not sleep for 33 hours straight and it was through this mighty little clinic that I coordinated 4 field hospitals, 150 medical personnel/week, a surgical unit that completed over 2000 surgeries and saw over 8000 trauma patients in the ensuing months.
From those first days, I remember limbs that needed to be amputated and I remember having to tell mothers we could not save their babies. I remember having to use heavy rocks to traction femur fractures and wood sticks as IV poles, I remember cleaning concrete out of wounds and stapling scalps back together. I remember reducing hundreds of fractures and stabilizing them. I remember the eyes of desolation and pain and then hope as the injured looked to me for help. I remember the burden of responsibility I took upon myself for the lives of every patient and the coordination of surgeries via US military helicopters around Port-Au-Prince.
Now I stand here 5 years later. It seems so near, yet so far. It seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime ago. A lot has passed since that terrible time and I am in a different place. I have healed from my post traumatic stress symptoms. A process that took 4 ½ years and the blessing of trauma counselling. I am now able to look back on this dark time without a quick heartbeat, tears, or the burden of guilt of not saving every patient. I have closure for the hundreds of thousands that never got a funeral and I am at peace with the world. I have joy.
As I look back I am able to see the hope, the light, the healing, the power in such an event like this. I am able to see the incredible strength of the human spirit that God gives us and I am able to see how His strength is enough to carry us through anything. I am able to see the incredible things that have been born out of the destruction. I am able to see how much Haiti has advanced over the past 5 years and how it continues to do so. I am able to see the spiritual change in so many who put their trust in God when they had no hope before. I am able to see the strength that has built in relationships and the resilience of so many. As I look back now, I see that difficult time not as one that defines my life in the here and now, but as one that will be a part of my past forever. I am able to appreciate so many people that were there that day for a reason and all the work they did to save lives. I am so thankful for those that came to help us save so many and I am so grateful for the lives saved. I am thankful that many have partnered with Haiti over the past 5 years to advance God's kingdom for the Haitian people through housing, food, medical care, and education. Most of all I am so inspired by the Haitian people and their drive to move on.
As I look forward I am encouraged by so much, I am empowered to use what I have learned from the past and to use it for good. I am excited to see how God continues to put Haiti on my heart and to know that I am blessed, so blessed in this life. I pray that people will never forget Haiti. I pray that people will continue to support Haiti and help to rebuild a great nation of people.
Nou Pap Janm Bliye (We will never forget)
Me and an ER physician exhausted in the middle of the night with body in background
Patient- loved them all-
Military chopper bringing wounded to our facility
A new Haiti, a new beginning