Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Good afternoon,

Today has been a tremendous day for the team. We have worked nonstop for the past 9 hours and we plan on burning the midnight oil. Remember when I told you that failure was not an option? I still feel the same.

News flash !!!! The French government issued a formal, written apology to us on behalf of MSF, the French Doctors Without Borders. MSF "backpedaled" a bit and made it clear that they needed our expertise when it comes to the care of Jacmel's critically ill and injured. Its funny how things can change in 24 hours when people take a look in the mirror or attempt to defend their poor judgement. It is even more reassuring to know that divine intervention is at play during this crisis.

We have been allowed to continue on our mission to save lives and that's all our entire team has ever wanted. "It is not about politics" as our Cuban counterparts pointed out. Instead, we are practicing the art of love and service to humanity, speaking with the universal language of medicine.

My anesthesiologist Roland (aka Dr. Rolando Cubano as he tells me to call him now) informed me today that "the Devil (Castro) has allowed me to collaborate with you". We all rolled on the floor with laughter as the sweat rolled down our brows.

Our day has been even more monumental as Cuban, American, French, Dutch, Canadian, Dominican, Sri Lankan and Haitian have worked side by side in unity.

I have quickly moved on from that sea of bleak emotions that I experienced yesterday and WE are recommitted to focusing on the task at hand.

My time here in Jacmel is drawing
to an end.

The highlight of the day was an operation we performed on a 2 and a half month old who had an incarcerated umbilical hernia.

To explain, the baby has a belly button with a very large protrusion. Within that protrusion the bowel can be compressed and lose its blood flow. This may result in what is called necrosis of the bowel or bowel gangrene, leading to a serious surgical emergency. Thankfully, it was recognized as a "problem" before it became a catastrophic problem. The surgery could not have gone better.

This young child remains on the ventilator here in the operating room. Even more, my colleagues have gone back to the hotel, with the exception of my physician's assistant Scott Stevenson and my pediatrics colleague Dr. Lester Harrell. Two American anesthesiologists from Hopkins and Philly (once again Philly is representin'!! Where is New York??) share the heat as we plan our next move. This young man has had some problems post procedure with respiratory difficulty called pulmonary edema. We have taken measures to try and transport the Future of Mother Haiti to the USNS Comfort in Port-au-Prince. I pray for angels to once again appear but the Canadians, Search and Rescue Service, and the US military are unable to accomodate our requests at this time. Tonight I have volunteered to provide critical care for this baby along with my colleagues. We will transfer the baby from the Cuban tent up to our Camp Delaware (some 900 yards away).

As I watch him breath in unison with the ventilator and I look at the bandage on his abdomen, I have now realized that I have impacted at least one life here.

Thinking about it for a few minutes more, I look around and see new monitors rolling into the Cuban and American operating rooms, new tents being set into place by the Canadian Army, patients smiling, pain being relieved, the hospital director seeking me out to ask questions and saying "good job";the engineers who are surveying the crumpled building that was once called an OR in preparation for repair; more supplies arriving to the tents, Haitian people stopping me to ask if I am Haitian and trying to teach me both Creole and French...I have now arrived at one simple conclusion. A group of caring individuals got together and had the crazy idea of traveling to Haiti during this island nation's time of need. We have literally impacted thousands of lives in the process.

I thank you for your attention and I would like to leave you with a poem very dear to my heart. Probably the only one I still know by heart.

I didn't use this one to impress my wife.

It is by William Ernest Henley.


Out of the Night that covers me,
Black as a pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced or cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I AM THE MASTER OF MY FATE, I AM THE CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL.

Good night. Think of us as we sleep here and take turns monitoring baby Frantz, the Future of Mother Haiti.

This blog entry is dedicated to my brother Kevin who reminded me today that this mission represented the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left and our team was down 21 to 17. Failure is and was NOT an option today.

We have a new US team hitting the ground and replacing us to keep our relief efforts alive.

News Flash!!!! Remember those angels I talked about? Captain Joiner from the Canadian Forces rode up in her truck a few minutes ago and transported us down to the docks where her troops are located. Major Bouchard and the medics provided us with oxygen tanks for Baby Frantz along with a critical care monitor for our care overnight. Angels on my shoulder and divine intervention.


I turn to home tomorrow.

Steve ("Doc J")  Johnson


Anonymous said...

Amazing how God works just when you situations seem to be hopeless. He comes through for you and your little patient. God Bless all of you for making a huge difference in the lives of too many to even count. Come home and be with your family and get some rest. You have done far more than your share. Who knows you probably have inspired some young Haitians to take up the calling and become a surgeon like you. I am sure you have done much to dispel the misconceptions Haitians and other international rescue teams may of had of Americans. The Delaware Team handled their business. Looking forward to seeing and hear about your experiences in Haiti. Probably, over some drinks and a stogie.

Safe Travels my friend, your work is done there.

[Admin-Antar Johnson]

Anonymous said...

Doc J -- so proud of you!. You and your team have shown tremendous strength, courage and determination and have done great work. Travel home safely. Much love,

your sis, Nicole Jackson

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you and the great work you are doing.I pray for you and your family ever nite Harold Johnson

Evelyn Archie said...

Praises be to God!

Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.

Your stories and pictures have had a profound impact. They will forever live within me and will never be forgotten.

It was good to see you too! Sauliana was so happy to see her uncle Steve : ) She, will have a thousand and one questions. Be ready to discuss your stories with the young as well...Smiles.


Jaynnette said...

Thank You and to all of our DE team for demonstrating the love for your profession and for the Love of our fellow brothers and sisters in Haiti. Thank you for being such Great Humanitarians.By the way, Tell Roland that Cuban food is good, but Philly Cheese steak is Untouchable :)
Thank you for sharing your trials, tribulation,and achievements with all of us. May He continue to protect you all and Bless you all on your return.
Jaynnette T.

Anonymous said...

Humanitarian has another difinition, it's Doc J. You will never see or know how many lives you have changed; but know in your heart you and your colleagues have done a wonderful job. "Thank God for you". Get home safe, get some rest, catch up with your family and I look forward to seeing you around the hospital.
T. (OR scrub)

Anonymous said...

Words can not express how greatful I am to you and the rest of the Delaware team for all you have done for the Haitian people. Thank you for chonicaling your experience and sharing with us...it is truly inspirational and life changing. As Edward Everett Hale once said, "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interefere with what I can do." Thank you all for doing something. Safe travels home. God Bless you all!
Caroline C.

Joe said...

I love it Doctor!!!
PhiNupe Forever!!!
PhiNupe Forever!!!
PhiNupe Forever!!!