Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Going Gets TOUGH

Good afternoon all:

After 3 and a half hours by air into Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, 6 hours by bus to Cabo Rojo, a border town to Haiti, our deployment team of 22 has safely made it to the point of no return. We prayed for a safe journey and it has been exactly that. The arrival at the airport in the DR was seamless and we had prearranged transport with food and all of our medical equipment and supplies. The DR has beautiful people who are. Willing and currently lending a helpful hand. What was interesting was the ride through the Dominican highways and countryside. We stopped several times for water and conversation with the locals. They wished us luck at a time like this giving a testament to the human condition and the spirit of giving.

I must admit that it has been a bit rough sitting on a bus for some 6 hours after getting off the plane. Oh yeah the two young women that I referred to before talked the whole way so I tried to act like I was asleep for the larger part of the journey. LOL!!

Once at this border town, we have now had to make a difficult decision. The DR coast guard had us prepare all of our belongings for boarding their cutter only to get word from their boss that we could not carry all of the gear due to weight restrictions (both people and goods). As a result he only gave us two choices.
Either leave 10 people behind with the supplies and our personal belongings or board all 22 team members and leave ALL of our supplies. Dr. Ray Agard (Internal Medicine) and myself have been made the team leaders and we met aboard the CG cutter and basically had verbal judo with the Captain via one of our nurse translators. The compromise and my decision was to leave our medical supplies, food, some of our tents, sleeping bags, and other personal luggage behind along with 5 of the team members (inclusive of my colleague Dr.Agard). Please understand that I have an empty feeling right now as I violated one of my rules as a trauma team leader. NEVER leave a member of your strike team behind and I'm the first one in and the last one out". Dr. Agard pointed out the fact that this was going to be a tough decision as this would result in our equipment and personal items being left on the dock with he and four others to keep an eye on it. The Captain was "gracious" enough to ensure the baggage will be picked up tonight at 10p.m. along with my remaining colleagues. Their arrival will be at 6:30a.m. tomorrow morning. I am left with Ray's wife and the remaining team members as the Team Leader. But I will rise to the challenge!!

We are currently on the CG cutter traveling at such a slow rate that a mere one hour trip at high speed will take some 5 hours more as we crawl towards Jacmel, Haiti. We were granted one "carry-on" bag and I instructed all to ensure security of their passports, toothbrushes, a change of undergarments, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, as much water and fruit that they could carry and board! We are undoubtedly in for a rough night!! We will not turn back now though. I am hopeful and everyone's determination is admirable. We have two national guardsman, a Haitian police officer and UN forcve presence awaiting us. In addition, several of my passengers speak both French and Creole, and are native to this region of Haiti.

As an aside, my discussion with the Governor of Santo Domingo was a very encouraging one. Jacmel and six surrounding cities have an immediate need for general/trauma surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and pediatricians. Dr. Agard and I earlier assured him that we are ready.

Please spread this blog to many others. Antar, I would like to add my wife and her friends. I am not going to include my work colleagues as we have a journalist providing Twitter chat.

To my lovely wife and children... I love you from here to the Moon and back. I have your recorded voices keeping me focused for the major UNKNOWN we soon face. Pray for us. We will succeed. I am trying to conserve my batteries so I may not respond right away and electricity is gold around here. Talk to you all soon.

-Doc J


Evelyn Archie said...

Steve, Troy and I are happy to here of your safe arrival along with your team. Words can not describe the warmth in our hearts knowing that you are there to lend a helping hand. Despite your challenges know you have the support of your family and friends back home. We are all so, so proud that you have embrassed this oppurtunity to help those in need. Our prayers are with you, your team and the Haitian people. God bless you on your journey!

maurice said...

Steve, Keep up the great work. Our family will keep you and your team in our prayers.Thanks for the blog-it allows us to have a much more personal connection to what's going on. By being one of the few on the ground what recommedations can you give your readers on the best way to help? Lots of confusion and misinformation in media on ways to help and get involved..
Moe Hallett

Gary A. said...

You are truly one of the most caring individuals I have ever met. There is no question that your devotion to the care of others is unparalleled. You are an example to us all of what it means to be a Physician. Rita the kids and I will be praying for you and your family and if there is anything your family needs while your there please let me know. Please keep safe and God Bless.

Your Dear Friend,

Niels Martin said...

Steve, I must echo the words above; you are an example for all humanity. Despite the devastation that surrounds you, I hope you are able to recognize the magnitude of your presence. Unlike the redundancy at home, each person you touch in Haiti is forever a life changed for the better, no matter how large or small.
Niels Martin

Christopher said...

Steve, you continue to "Pay It Forward" everyday by allowing God's gifts to use your hands for humanity's sake. Saying we are proud of you is an undersatement. We simply Love you man! Myself, Debi and our family and friends will keep you and your team in continued prayer. Meek and the girls, you know we are just a phone call away! Be Blessed, Christopher Rippie

Gurvan said...

There is no greater gift than the one you, and countless others, are giving the Haitian people. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Gurvan Blackman

Doc J said...

Steve you keep doing the Lord's work over there and I will continue to try and keep your blog updated so that others can get your first hand accounts of what is going on in Haiti. God Bless you and your family. (Admin- Antar Johnson)