Feb. 1, 11 a.m. I’m on the tarmac at the Port au Prince Airport waiting for the military flight that will begin my trip home. I wish more than anything to stay here in Haiti and continue this work, but professional obligations require my presence elsewhere. I hope to return very soon.
It seems a lifetime ago I was frantically packing and repacking my bags and making all those trips to REI. I remember the military helicopter in from Santo Domingo, the land below turning from the lush green of the Dominican Republic to the stark destruction of the Haitian landscape. I remember landing at the U.S. Embassy and meeting the rest of the team and then taking that first SUV ride through the rubble-filled Port au Prince streets. I remember the first patient femur fracture we treated, the first wound infection that improved, and the first time I said a shy “Bonjour.”
I remember the Haitian people beginning to live again — hearing it in the rhythmic strike of hammers and seeing it in the effortless posture of the graceful Haitian women returning from market with large baskets of food balanced perfectly on their heads.
I remember everything, yet at the same time nothing — the past two weeks has been a blur of sweat, dust, exhilaration, and fatigue.
I am proud to have worked with such an incredibly dedicated group of providers and workers. Tremendously grateful to Kaiser Permanente and Relief International for getting us on the ground so quickly, and supporting us so well. Thankful to Medshare for those initial supplies, and extremely gratified to feel we have already helped, in whatever small way, 2,000+ patients affected by this event.
The Relief International program expands daily. In addition to the operation and expansion of the fixed and mobile clinics, several partnerships with the local pre-existing Haitian health care system are in the works. Capacity building has begun.
I also know the people of Haiti continue to need as much help as they can get. They need it today. They’ll need it tomorrow, the next day, and next month. They’ll need it for a long time and your support is crucial to the Relief International effort. Please donate what you can — your time as a volunteer, your money to the Relief International team, or your understanding when your KP colleagues drop off the work roster to head to Haiti for a few weeks.
There will be ongoing opportunities for KP physicians to volunteer in Port au Prince as the site becomes fully integrated into the KP Global Health Program.
What we have begun in Carrefour, Port au Prince is only a drop in the bucket — but at least there IS a bucket. We can fill it together, one drop at a time.
I leave Haiti with a hopeful heart.
Suzy Fitzgerald, MD
Kaiser Permanente – Diablo Service Area
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry