News & Events

Long Overdue Haiti Update: Part I

From – Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort:

“Six moths after the earthquake that brought aid and attention here from around the world, the median strip camp blends into the often numbing wretchedness of the post disaster landscape. Only 28,000 of the 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the earthquake have been moved into new homes. . . ”

Pazapa is the Creole term for step by step. It seems the steps are not happening fast enough in Haiti.  Since I last wrote three months have gone by.  I apologize for not giving an update sooner.  While progress is measured at glacial speed overall, our work in Leogane continues to evolve at a more accelerated pace.  Our immediate goal was to help quake victims.  This transitioned then into stabilizing healthcare in the Leogane, Haiti.  The eventual goal is a transition to Haitian control.  We are now in our 26th week of operation and still changing volunteer teams of US doctors, nurses, pharmacists, techs, aides, etc. every week.  It is amazing that we have been able to maintain this pace, but it is a tribute to the ongoing working relationship between the Notre Dame Haiti Program, World Wide Village, InterVol, and special help from other NGO’s such as Hands-On Disaster Relief.  But this pace cannot be maintained and shouldn’t be.  It is time to transition to a Haitian run health system supported and supplemented by our efforts where and when needed. I will review this in more detail but first I want to bring you up-to-date on our activities at the HSC Field Hospital Annex (affectionately known at the Leogane Shock Trauma Center).

First the Numbers:

Through the end of June more than 25,000 Haitian patient interactions have been noted at the 50 bed mobile hospital and clinics. About 250 babies have been delivered and over 700 surgeries performed. Equipment and supplies have been shipped in on a regular basis whose value totals well over one-half million dollars. We have been aided by the Hands-On Disaster Relief (HODR) volunteers who have helped build shelving and inventoried our supplies.  Remember, one needs more than doctors and nurses to run a healthcare facility. There is an entire infrastructure that needed to be created to allow the medical teams to treat patients.

This past March, Haitian Diocese Bishop Duracin, the Archbishop of Capetown – Thabo Mkgoba and the Bishop of Convocation of American Churches in Europe – Pierre Whalon, participated in the consecration and dedication of the hospital/clinic facility. This is an important moment as it showed our intent to work with the local Haitian health facility – Hopital Ste. Croix for an eventual transition. It was important that the field hospital be blessed by the bishop.

Fr. John’s Visit

The day before the dedication we were visited by Father John Jenkins and many administrative staff from Notre Dame including Frances Shavers and Lou Nanni. Joining them, John Nagy, staff writer for the Notre Dame magazine and Matt Cashore, staff photographer for the Notre Dame magazine. This was truly an inspiring visit especially for us of the Notre Dame family.  Words about commitment are one thing, but visiting the disaster area was very powerful and sent a very strong message.  Father John toured our facility, walked the streets (see photo) of Leogane, and had a special presentation for those Haitians afflicted with lymphatic filariasis.  It was all a very moving experience and gave one cause to continue the effort despite the conditions.  John Nagy and Matt Cashore documented the efforts of Notre Dame and its partners in an excellent article published in the Notre Dame Magazine Summer Edition.  Matt Cashore also published a video tape which explains where we have been, what we are doing, and where we hope to go.  This is available at the following web link: Please see the accompanying article by John Nagy titled “Pazapa”.  Also there is a great panoramic by Matt:

World Wide Village has taken a responsibility of the administration of the hospital facility and assumed the major portion of cost to administer it. Well over $200,000 to date. Over the ensuing months the transition to Haitian control started. Over 135 Haitian staff members were hired in various capacities to work at the hospital over this time period.  At our peak we have employed 70 Haitians, including medical providers like doctors and approximately 20 nurses to help run the facility.  The hospital portion is run seven days a week. There is an emergency room that is open 24/7. Surgeries are conducted as determined by the needs and the type staff that are visiting from the states. There has been interaction with the local Haitian surgeons, particularly urologists.  This is to help with the hydrocele program.

Other memorable events in the past few months include Leogane Shock Trauma Center’s first delivery of twins.  This was done by Rochester OB/Gyn and InterVol volunteer Shawn Stephans working with a local Haitian urologist.  These twins were immediately cared for by Notre Dame alums Mary O’Connor and Al LaReau.  Please see the accompanying photo.  The term “double domers” is now re-defined.  There are many other memorable stories and events that have taken place.  I will devote subsequent emails on these topics.  They will include the volunteer efforts of Notre Dame alum and InterVol volunteer extraordinaire Sean Farrell and his efforts with the “Leogane Track Club” and Lamb Center, which is an orphanage that was destroyed in Leogane.  Sean has been working well over four months and has taken on the role of “Radar O’Reilly” from the MASH series.

As I noted earlier we are now in a period of transition. It is important that we reestablish Haitian control of the hospital at its original site.  The guest house was destroyed during the quake. The two-story structure is damaged beyond repair. There is a remaining three-story structure which is usable. Presently the first floor of this unit is being cleaned and renovated with hopes of being the transition site for the field hospital. More on this to come within the next four to six weeks.

The Future

We have started a new tradition which hopefully will continue into the near future. Joey Leary, ND Class of ’09 started this tradition by delaying medical school for one year to work with Notre Dame Haiti program as an InterVol volunteer. Joey is responsible for starting to organize “Emil’s Army”.  As you recall, these are teams of Notre Dame Alumni doctors and dentists along with their friends and associates who have come to provide support on various medical/surgical missions.  This was interrupted by the quake. The traditions of giving back was followed by Brennan Bollman, Class of ’09, who took a leave of absence from her first year of Harvard Medical School to come and work directly in Leogane after the quake.  I am now happy to announce that Tristan Hunt, Class of 2010, has elected to delay medical school at Columbia University for one year to give service as an InterVol volunteer in the Notre Dame Haiti program.  It will be Tristan’s job to help work with all of our partners to help make the transition a success. At the same time he will start making plans to put together those visiting medical/surgical teams to provide ongoing support for the years to come. Tristan will be aided by another Notre Dame alum, Simone Stickler, Class of 2009.  Simone is the director of InterVol’s RUMS (Recycling Unused Medical Supplies) program. She has already sent one 40 foot container to Haiti and is working on the second. This is integral for the continued success of getting back to the baseline health system in Leogane as well as the support needed for Father Tom Streit’s Notre Dame Haiti Program. Tristan will be in touch in the near future updating our plans and requesting your help.

It has been a long six months since the quake. We have much to be grateful for but there is so much more to do. Please do not forget us, your help is needed now more than ever. Thank you for all of those who have supported the ongoing effort in Leogane.