Thursday, January 28, 2010


Good morning,

After 14 hours from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince, Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo (and a restless night), we now turn to home.

I peer through the window at my departure gate to see our ride home. I rub my eyes and clearly see that the tail of the aircraft has a Pittsburgh Steelers emblem boldly displayed on it. Being a Dallas Cowboys fan since I was a child this is much to my chagrin. Humorously, it clearly illustrates the fact that some one is trying to send me straight to HELL!!

Maybe it is my brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., or maybe its my family and friends trying to set up the ultimate episode of MTV's Punk'd. While collectively, I have the greatest set of friends and family a man could have, only they could set the stage like that with a straight face. All of this serving as the usual pool of comic relief I drown myself in daily while at home. Laughter cures all pain.

I want you all to know (friends, family and complete strangers) that you have been a strong support system throughout my journey.

Many positive images have been dancing in my head as I awaited the airport shuttle. My wife's gentle embrace and comforting voice; the smiles, laughter and tears of my two children who have missed me dearly (my wife tells me Dru hugged my pillow two days ago); Me kissing the ground when I arrive in Philadelphia.

Additional thoughts give me a warm heart as well- the Cubans and their evolution of understanding, that while worlds apart we are still the same; the many smiles I have seen along the way; all of the hugs I have received from total strangers.

Two nights ago, 12 little girls appeared on the roadside as we walked back to the hotel in the moonlight. Their ages probably ranged from 4 to 10 years of age.

Believe it or not with wide smiles, they clapped.

You don't have to speak Creole or understand French to perceive and comprehend the universal body language for appreciation.

The "blue shirts" (referring to our scrubs) as we were now known in the town of Jacmel, were doing wonderful things for the Haitian people. We have served as their beacons of hope as the word has spread around town.

In stark contrast to this, I am trying to suppress some of the grim images that I have seen here. Undeniably, they will forever be emblazoned on the walls and storage vaults of my mind. I am fighting tears even as I write this passage. When did I become such a cry baby? Calm, cool, and collected is my usual state but I am still searching for the answers.
All I can say is, I have a heart and two eyes.

I see a man who has lost his wife and two of his seven children to the quake. We provided him with food and one of our six man tents so that he may house his family and "pick up the pieces". He has lost everything. By the way where does one begin?

I see dead bodies piled up in the open spaces and people setting fire to them for disposal while children play double dutch in open fields and lots. Many of them have no parental supervision simply because their parents are dead.

I see the young child with the open thigh wounds and her mother giving her feculent water from a pothole simply because there is no suitable drinking water.

I see people who are complaining of chest pain, not because they have true cardiac disease, but because they have post traumatic stress disorder and are in need of psychiatric care. Their chests weigh heavy from despair.

I see numerous people being kept in living quarters that are not suitable for swine.

I see many sectors of the government that do not function for the people because of greed, corruption, and material gain. Remorse, compassion, humanity, and sympathy do not exist in many instances.

I see a woman that needs an amputation of her foot because there are now flies and maggots in her wounds. She can no longer dress the wound and walk around.

I see mistreatment and injustice for our fellow human beings.

Close your eyes. That is easy to do. For with that action you will make the images go away but for a brief moment.

Instead, I challenge you today to open them wide and pay attention to what is happening around you. I simply made a conscious decision to try and make a difference.

The final image for all of you, which I will never forget, is the ascent of an angel with a tail rotor, headed out to sea. Aboard was two month old Baby Frantz Santius. Mother Haiti's tears of blood have now turned into a river of HOPE.

We are descending into Philadelphia now and as I study the yellow arm bracelet with the impression reading LIVESTRONG on it there is new meaning.

This entry is dedicated to the strong, beautiful and courageous people of Haiti. May God grant you grace.


Dr. Steven Andrew Johnson
General and Trauma Surgeon,
Surgical Intensivist
Associate Chief, Acute Care Surgical Division
Christiana Hospital
Newark, DE


K.UsherMartin said...

Steve, as I read this today, I am overwhelmed, even moreso that I have in the past week reading your posts. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to you and Tomiko for all those you helped in Haiti. I am overwhelmed with sadness that the pain and suffering will go on, but the pain and suffering was there long before the earthquake, but because of this earthquake, Help in all forms have descended upon Haiti. Hope. Hopefully now, Haiti will remain on the world stage and get the attention and assistance it has need for so long. Although you may feel that your part was part was lifechanging for those you touched - physically, and readers, emotionally. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to "be there" to say the prayers in a way that listening or watching the news would have not been the same prayers. Thanks to you, we were able to send that little angel off to be carried by all of our prayers. Thank you.

Stacy B said...

WELCOME HOME!!!! the work you and ur team has done over in haiti was amazing! I must say i was clued to my phone waiting for the next twitter update and for ur nightly blogs.I was impressed with u as a trauma surgeon now im just as impressed with u as a person. I am proud to work with you and everyone from team delaware at cchs!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home!


Karl said...

Steve, you are an inspiring brother!

My family is from a village about 20 minutes from Jacmel, its amazing that you were there while donating your time and energy to the Haitian people. Very much in gratitude.

- Karl

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that everyone made it home safely. Thank you to all of you and your families for the sacrafices you made to help the people of Haiti. You are an inspiration to us all and my 2 year old daughter says that you are all "MY hero". (everything is hers these days) God Bless you!
Caroline C.

Anonymous said...

Thank you is all I can say. I wish there were words to be more descriptive of the gratitude that people across the country, and especially at cchs, feel towards all involved (including your families). God Bless

Danielle B said...

Welcome Home!

Dr. Johnson, I have only seen you walking through the halls of CCHS so I never knew of your passion for your work. I feel like these blogs not only helped everyone understand what help the people of Haiti will continue to require, but they also helped us learn so much about the compassion that all the Delaware medical team has for their fellow man.

You guys should be so proud of yourselves. I am so proud to say I work amongst such a group of wonderful, caring, and compassionate people.

Gary A. Tuma, MD said...

There are not any words that can describe how thankful Rita and I are that you are home safe. While you performed miralcles in Haiti, we are most grateful for your safe return. You have very eloquently described and most difficult situation to your family and friends. You should be most proud for been a true inspiration to health care providers and human beings alike. Mostly you are a wonderful role model to your two beautiful girls. I don't think there is anyone more proud of their Daddy than those two. Call when you get a chance, i know you are busy. Much Love and God Bless. The Tuma's

Nancy said...

Just wanted to give you a heartfelt THANK YOU from all the Haitian people. I am a friend of Shirley's and she told me about your blog. I forwarded it to all my friends so hopefully you get some thanks from them too. You are inspiration to all of out here to do more then just donate money or close our eyes and look away. My friends are organizing a medical group to go in March.


Christina Schneider said...


I just sat down and read the blog from beginning to end. Just amazing....everything. The disaster, the Cubans, the political wrangling, the people of of Haiti, your faith and God's miracles....we are so proud of you and your family! Well done and welcome home!

Christina (Maggie's mom :))

Anonymous said...

Dr J~ Thanks for sharing so passionately your hope, faith and expertise. Your blog has been inspiring and deepened my faith in god and in people.My family and I have discussed your blog daily and my children have heard and seen by your example. You made us laugh ( we are Ravens fans) and cry and think. God bless you and the whole team. Ann-Marie

Anonymous said...

Dr. Johnson, welcome home. Thank you for not only providing your talents to a needed cause but for sharing your and Haiti's daily lives with us. We tend to hear only what has been sliced and diced for time and ratings but your account was like hearing a family member come home and tell you face to face about his or her day and telling you just as it is.

Peace and Blessing to Haiti!

ursula b. said...

Doc J, Thanks so much for sharing your life changing experience with all us. It was so touching and truly heartfelt. As others have stated, although you were in Haiti to help others we are truly glad you are back home.

God Bless you and your family!