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.