Arrival in Haiti

Canceled civilian flights into Port au Prince resulted in a 24-hour delay in Los Angeles, and then a diversion through the Dominican Republic where the chaos began.  Our orderly civilian travel ended in Santo Domingo, DR, where we had no clear way into Haiti, but heard about a possible UN flight for relief workers.  So we hitched a ride with 250 lbs. of medical gear to a military airbase were we did indeed secure a ride on a US Coast Guard C-131 cargo plane to get to Port au Prince at midnight last night.  The infrastructure is so badly broken in Haiti that there is NO immigration process anymore. It felt distinctly strange to just “walk into” a country with no official stopping us to at least look at a passport and without having to fill out some form.

We had to walk about 3-4 miles along the runways of the airport to get to the UN compound, where we found a very active emergency medical clinic run by no one in particular, but staffed by ortho surgeons from Miami and other doctors from Partners in Health (started by Paul Farmer) and other Brigham and Women’s Hospital staff.  They were incredibly short staffed and have approximately 100 patients, many two to a bed.  It was about 5 am before we got a few hours sleep, but not before a briefing, and some patient care.  The excitement of the evening was a patient brought in by one of our US Urban Search and Rescue teams that had been rescued from inside a collapsed school. She was a 15-year old who required amputation of her left arm in the field to free her after her 3-day entrapment.  Needless to say, she was in poor condition, and it took hours to get her stabilized.  It’s safe to say that without the sophisticated search and rescue and medical care she received, she would have died.

Today did not involve clinical care, but more of us setting up a program that can hit the ground running with the additional 10 people arriving by Monday.  We’ve registered with the Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and managed to rent a vehicle and driver (not a small feat in a country with few available cars).  Still need to secure better accommodations, as we spent our few hours of sleep on banquet style tables under the stars.  There are no houses for rent and all hotels are either full or damaged.  We will likely end up in tents – and the safest place will likely be the UN compound. We still have leads on some possible houses for rent from friends/relatives of contacts.

The current logistical and medical problems are huge.  The one hospital standing is full and is planned for evacuation. There are supposed to be five field hospitals established, but until that happens there is almost no advanced care capability. Fuel, food and water supplies are low – there was no breakfast or lunch today at the UN compound as there was no water for cooking.  It is a country with little resources to begin with that now has literally nothing – no active banking, commerce, or ability to dig itself out, much less stand on its own.

Today has been quite busy with team selection as well.  One of the administrative parts of my work has been to facilitate volunteer opportunities for others, and I’m happy to say that by Monday, 6 of the 13 team members will be Kaiser Permanente staff, with hopefully more coming later.  We are expecting a lot of work, but putting together the right people with the best skills has been time consuming.  In the end, I’m very optimistic that we will have an incredible team.  Right now I’m just hoping for a decent night’s sleep.

Thank you, thank you to all who have helped support this work!

Update from Hernando Garzon, MD, January 16, 2010


51 responses to “Arrival in Haiti

  1. Hernando, I’m thinking about you all the time. It’s hard for me to watch the news. I am proud to know you and to know you are there. Many of us here are giving $$ and please know that there is much support for your efforts back home. With love and admiration, Alix

  2. Wow. It’s great to have a “view” from the inside. Infrastructure is so important. Thanks for being there to help it get set up as well as provide patient care to those in need.

  3. Karl Sonkin, Media Relns

    Hernando, you sound great but certainly taxed; Dr. Beekley is running the volunteer list at KP Cares; she’s busy and we’re all cheering for you and your teammates in the Quake Zone.

  4. It sounds like you are doing a great job so far down there. I am an ER nurse and have volunteered to come with CNA but am not sure if they will pick me to go. Even if I don’t it is wonderful to know that there are people down there helping from KP. Thank you.

  5. Fantastic work, and thank you for this update! I have been following updates from Doctors without Borders, and donated to them already. Offered my surgical (and non-surgical) services to a few Christian medical mission groups, but none are really adequately prepared or trained in medical disaster relief. There is a group already scheduled previously to go to Haiti in late March, but those plans may change. Please contact me anytime via Kaiser or my email above if I can help.
    -Jay Yew, M.D.
    Southern California Permanente Medical Group

  6. Diane Lofgren

    Thank you, Hernando, for all you and the team are doing for the people of Haiti. Your dedication is incredible. We appreciate your sharing your story with us. Tremendous work!

    Diane Gage Lofgren
    Brand Strategy, Communications and Public Relations, Kaiser Permanente

  7. Great my plan is to join you guys soon if any one know of any group soon please let me know Iam ready to go remember we are praying for you all Thanks

  8. Lisa Tomasian CRT - Radiology Technologist

    Hernando, It is so helpful to hear first hand what is going on inside. We get a lot of reports and yours sure helps to feel like we at Kaiser are making a difference. While our prayers are with the people of Haiti we know it’s the hands on that are saving lifes. Please let your team know that the workers in Northern California Kaiser are reading your blog and sending relief money.

  9. Thank you and good luck. We can be info backup for consults/digital diagnostic help if any on the field questions arise perhaps when things settle down.

  10. Paula Hunsicker

    I can only imagine how awful the scene before you must be. Thank you for the blogs, it lets us know you all are safe. I know that there is only so much that you all can do, but thank God for people such as yourself. We back home pray for the people of Haiti, for you and your team.
    Be safe, be well

  11. Dr. Garzon,

    Thank you for your disaster relief work, many times over now and most recently in Haiti. You are such an inspiration to your Kaiser Permanente colleagues. I will be following your blog closely, and sending you lots of good thoughts. (And some concrete support through a Red Cross donation, too.)


    Lynn Mundell

  12. Debra Cohen, MD

    The updates are very important. Thank you for being there, Hernando. Sarah knows I am ready to go at a moment’s notice. Stay safe!

  13. Greetings, Thank you for being there to provide your services, & for sharing your story. I am a Medical assistant, & would like to go to be of some help. Anything I can do, I would like to. I could help to raise some spirits with music. Prayers for all of you,

    Sherri Day, Medical assistant Stockton, CA

  14. I am not a KP staff member, just an insured member and couldn’t be more pleased or proud of KP. Thank you for leaving your “world”, families, friends and the comfort and safety of your homes and lives. To give all that up for the uncertainty, sadness, and unimaginable conditions of this tragedy make you all heros. I admire your compassion and courage. You and the people of Haiti are in our thoughts and prayers. Donations can only do so much. I hope the governments will allow us to sponsor and foster families and orphaned children much as we have done in the past and after Katrina.

  15. I am so thankful for the caring staff through-out Kaiser Permanente. Kasier, is always helping where and when there is a need. You can always count on Kaiser to be the leader when disaster occurs.

  16. Hi Dr. Garzon,
    I keep you in my prayers. I am proud of you and your team. Thank you for heading to Carrefour. I heard that people there haven’t received any help as of yesterday. I personally know a group of locals in Carrefour. Just in case you see nuns in blue, please be assured that they can help you find your way in the area. They live in the winding road to the slum area. They take care of the sick and the handicapped children in Riviere Froide/Carrefour.
    Thanks again and blessings to the whole KP team.

  17. Lawanda L Clay

    Thank you so much for the update. Two of our own nurses in the icu Riverside are eager to go to haiti to help out please keep us posted.

  18. Dr. Garzon-

    Thank you for providing much needed patient care the people of PAP. I was actually traveling with a group of students from the University of Colorado- Denver’s health administration MBA program in Haiti just prior to the earthquake. Our flight left PAP on Tuesday 1/12 at 11:30EST- about 5.5 before the quake. Needless to say, this past week has been rough.

    The Haitian healthcare delivery system was already stretched thin prior to the earthquake. I am however proud to say that I was inspired by the many great private and public/private relationships that exist in Haiti ( eg. PIH- Zami Lasante) that are aimed specifically at improving health.

    Thank you again- and safe travels.

    Adam Brown

  19. Michael Fletcher

    Thank you Dr. Garzon for this report. We all know you and your colleagues are working tirelessly to help the people of Haiti. I am proud to be part of Kaiser Permanente due to the efforts of people like you.

  20. Dr. Garzon:

    As a long time member, and short time Employee, I wanted to thank you for heading down to help out.

    Once again, our fellow KP employees are jumping into the breach, and it makes me proud to work for such a great company and with such great colleagues.

    Best Regards,

    Todd Merkel, NW Region KPIT

  21. Yolanda Clemons

    Hernando, May God bless you for all of your help given there in Haiti. The residents there definitely need you and have you to thank for all of your tireless efforts of humanitarianism. I am hoping that I could get an opportunity to provide a service to those in need like you are. It is something worthwhile and fulfilling. I will keep you and your team in my prayers constantly. God Bless

    Yolanda R. Clemons – Unit Manager – Downey, CA

  22. Thank you for all the work you are doing to help the people of Haiti. I will follow your progress in your blog. My thoughts and prayers are with you and other medical personnel that are in the field.

  23. It warmed my heart to hear how hard our Kaiser people are working to give all the help they are so very well qualified to give. Today I found out my son in law from Harbor Seattle is also going to be joining the many medical staffs over there also. I’m so proud of Kaiser and my son in law! I wish I could do more than send money, but my job with Kaiser doesn’t allow me to leave. All of you good people are in my hearts and prayers and thoughts everyday. Please keep the updates coming. God Bless~

  24. I am so glad to hear of Kaiser’s response to this humanitarian crisis. Thank you for your work and for sharing your experience.

  25. Denise Lenore

    It is people like you that make me proud to be a member of the Kaiser family. Thanks for having such a caring heart and responding to the needs of others.

  26. jocelyn c. guillermo

    I work for american red cross for 10 years and so im not new to diasaster relief. What i do not know is that Kaiser Permanente is also equally helping out on disaster with little or no publicity.
    Im now a KP employee and im proud to be one.
    We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the sacrifices and humanitarian work .

  27. William Liss MD

    Thanks for being there. Our thoughts are with you, your team, and the people of Haiti.

  28. Angela Felton RN

    Hi Dr.Garzon I am KP nurse in the Georgia region and I would like to thank you for your update from the inside, it is such a pleasure to know that Kaiser is involved with helping with this terrible disaster you and your team will be in my prayers thank you for giving of yourself to serve the people of Haiti who need so much I have many friends who are from Haiti and I will let them know the KP cares and is there serving the people. God Bless and be safe.

  29. I have been a member of Kaiser P. since my birth, April 1948. My wife works for the K.P. Division of Research. I have appreciated the health care I have received all these years, and now I have an elevated feeling of respect for the integrity of KP. I hope this service to Haiti represents a movement of the global village working together.

  30. I am very proud of Kaiser Permanente for steping up and getting involved. I will pray for all volunteers safe return

    KP Member

  31. William M Katkov


    From my team here at the Psychiatry Clinic in
    San Diego, our hats are off to you and the team, and our hearts are with you and the sufferring masses who will be blessed to have you and the other noble and heroic caregivers.

    God speed,


  32. Janet Carballo

    Dr. Hernando and Associates,
    I feel you represent all of the many fields and individuals working at Kaiser. I am very proud that Kaiser has stepped up to the plate and I am proud to be an employee at Kaiser.

  33. Thank you for your service to the Citizens of Haiti, I am very proud of our Physicians, Clinical Staff Members and employees for their dedication to our Communities and people around the world.

  34. Philip Vardara, RN

    Dr. G:

    When I heard about KP docs going to Haiti, I knew you’d be one of them. Thanks so much for all you do bringing hope and health.

  35. Adeline Austin

    I love Kaiser. Thank Dr.Garzon for showing me why.

  36. D. Scott Smith

    Great work Hernando! Let us know when the next group will be organized, or how we can help, in particular the ID group may be able to offer further support as we move into the 2nd and 3rd phases where infection prevention is needed.

  37. Cleante M Stain, LCSW

    I am a Kaiser member and employee.

    My family is from Haiti. Our relatives’ homes were destroyed. They are safe and staying in Le Plaine. I am proud of Kaiser and very grateful for all the compassionate and generous efforts Kaiser has provided to Haiti at this difficult time. Thank you Kaiser Permanente.

  38. Hernando,
    I am proud of your work in Haiti. It is great to be your partner and colleague.
    Remember “Mountains beyond Mountains”, a great book about Paul Farmer. You are like him, a role model for all of us. I gave my donations to PIH.
    I wonder how many spine cases you see and who takes care of them.
    I rather be in Haiti than working off my surgical backlog in Sacramento.
    Stay healthy and be safe.

  39. Roberta Jennings

    Thank you. Thank you. Kaiser is number one we have the best physician available to assist the people in Haiti. My God bless each and every one of you other medical personnel that are in the field.

  40. Thanks for your great work for the people of Haiti Hernando. I follow it every day & it’s heartening to read your reports. Your contribution may seem small but it’s needed now before Haiti can look at rebuilding.

  41. Gloria E Avendano

    Thanks every one for the wonderful job, you guys inspire me to keep helping people and to care about, others, I am very proud to be working in Kaiser Permanente is such a wonderful company to work with,
    We will keep in touch and see how can we help more this poor people.

  42. It is unimaginable to think of the horror of this disaster and suffering of the Haitians. I am humbled by the generosity and compassion of humankind that has responded. It gives me hope. Thank you!

  43. Thank you for your compassion and for being there. These are the actions that make me so proud to be a part of the Kaiser family.

  44. Rhonda Wossne

    Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. I’m sure that the people of Haiti appreciate what you’re doing and so do I. This is just another example of how Kaiser saw a need and reacted without hesitation. May God bless you!

  45. Mark Love, P.A.-C.

    God Bless you; I’m sure your work there is extremely difficult- hang in there. Our thought and prayers are with you and we hope to be able to join you.

  46. I’m a Kaiser employee and very proud of all the good that comes from this organizing. I wish I could do more than send a donation. My prayers and well wishes for our team and people of Haiti.
    God Bless You All.

  47. I give thanks and praise for your giving spirits. You are in my prayers. How proud I am of Kaiser Permanente.

  48. Andrea Rodoni, COA

    I too like many have so much admiration for our peers and those who are volunteering their time away from work, family and friends to assist in this time of need. I am so proud not only to be a KP member but even more so a KP employee. I pray for everyones efforts during this crisis and safe return home. Thank you all!

  49. Helen Elliott


  50. You guys are amazing and I’m sure your patients feel the same.

  51. Rose Ann Favela RN

    You Guys are AMAZING.!!
    Thank you for your dedication , compassion and the gift 0f self.These are the actions that make me so proud to be a part of the Kaiser family. God Bless you

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