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Thursday, February 4, 2010

A B Short, CEO of Medshare, Travelled with us to Haiti:

When the news broke that a 7.0 earthquake had rocked Haiti, there was no question that MedShare would respond. Traditionally, we are not an emergency response organization, but over the past 10 years, we’ve shipped 37 containers of medical supplies and equipment to Haiti, and had established relationships there. The cry from that disaster was a personal one from our Haitian friends that were suffering. They desperately needed our help, and MedShare had the ability to do it.

Before the earthquake struck, I already had plans to go to Haiti to look at a project that we were going to do jointly with Project Medishare and Partners in Health. Two days after the earthquake, a company out of Florida offered use of their plane to MedShare for shipping medical supplies. We decided to use the plane to fly a medical team from International Medical Alliance of Tennessee to Santo Domingo, along with our medical supplies, and in an instinctive decision, I decided to go with them. I was already physically and emotionally prepared to be there, and being that MedShare doesn’t have a history of emergency response, I saw this was as an opportunity to learn about the issues and challenges of doing it.
So I traveled down with the team from IMA, who had a working relationship with a Haitian doctor who ran the Good Samaritan Hospital in Jimani, Dominican Republic. This was a 100-bed hospital just minutes across the Haitian border. Hospitals in Port-au-Prince were overcrowded and injured people were waiting days without treatment, so many Haitians were being transported by the truckload to Jimani. When we arrived there were over 300 patients needing emergency treatment.
I’ve traveled to 38 countries, and I’ve never witnessed the mass pain and suffering like I did on this trip to Haiti. It was emotionally draining, but incredibly inspiring to see the strength of the Haitian people, both the victims and the family members supporting them with love and care. There’s no way the medical staff could have met the needs of the patients without the family members there to help tend to them.
The Haitians had an insatiable spirit of survival that I’ll never forget. I remember seeing one young woman who had her right arm amputated at the shoulder joint. She just sat in the hospital just staring, patiently waiting and wondering what’s next for her life.
Then there were those patients like Erick, whose injuries were too critical for our hospital to treat with what little resources we had. Erick had been engulfed in a propane fire in his house during the earthquake. He had 35% of his body burned, and was stuck under the rubble for two days. He then spent another three days waiting outside a hospital in Port-au-Prince to be treated, before his family brought him to us. His wife and daughter stayed by his side the entire time, comforting him and nursing his wounds until we were able to get him airlifted to the USS Comfort to receive proper treatment. None of these people deserved this, but they don’t dwell on that; they go on.
In the midst of this emergency situation, I witnessed firsthand the success of MedShare’s operations. When donations from some organizations came in, I saw medical professionals having to take time away from the patients to sort and organize the various medical products. In contrast, MedShare donations would arrive and go immediately to use, because they were already sorted, labeled and ready to go. We get needed medical supplies into the hands of physicians, and it made me proud to know that our staff, donors and volunteers helped make all this happen.
I’m going to be emotionally processing the 10 life-changing days I spent in Haiti for weeks and months to come. As for how we can continue to help, I see where MedShare can have a pivotal role in the rebuilding of Haiti. It’s time to continue our efforts and assess how we can use our skills and resources to have the greatest impact on reestablishing a new, quality health system in Haiti.

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