Author Archives: kphaitirelief

Launching a New Blog – ‘Dispatches From…’

Great news  – we have officially launched our new blog, “Dispatches From…” , through which we plan to share Kaiser Permanente caregivers’ experiences as they donate their time and expertise to relief and charitable care organizations worldwide.

You can find the new blog at:

The new blog’s first entry comes from Jack Cochran, MD, who is executive director of The Permanente Federation. He wrote about his recent two-week mission in Tanzania. Dr. Cochran has traveled to Africa for close to 25 years to provide services to those in need there.

The new blog wouldn’t have been possible without all of the caregivers who contributed to this blog, and all of the dedicated readers of “Dispatches From Haiti.” Please consider reading and subscribing to the new blog.

Another Award, and Another Blog

Greetings. We have two great pieces of news to share with our loyal readers and subscribers.

First: “Dispatches From Haiti” has won another award! It was named “Best Blog” in the annual PR News Corporate Social Responsibility Awards on March 8.  We are indebted to the Kaiser Permanente caregivers who took the time to contribute to this blog as they contributed their time and expertise to the people of Haiti.

Second: Dispatches From Haiti is evolving into a blog that will share thoughts and observations from Kaiser Permanente caregivers volunteering worldwide on behalf of relief agencies. Watch this space in the coming days for a link to “Dispatches From…” a new blog that will debut this month.

Home, Safely, From Medor

Monday, Dec 13

Hi, All-
We made it home safely (Sunday) night.  The helicopter ride from Medor to Port-au-Prince on Saturday took only 15 minutes.  It is 28.9 nautical miles.  (It took us 8 ½ hours to make the trip by four-wheel-drive vehicle, then walking/mule riding.)  We rode in a six-seat Cessna 337 from Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where we spent Saturday night.  The American Airlines flights back to Ronald Reagan Airport (in Washington, D.C.) was relatively uneventful.

How wonderful to be home—hurray for showers and familiar food!
Here is a summary of the trip—both negatives and positives:


  • We were not able to meet with Frantz Leger, the architect for the primary school.
  • Three vehicles broke down trying to navigate the “road” to Medor.
  • Because of the vehicle malfunctions, 20  boxes of medicines were left at Plasak, a seven-hour walk to Medor.  These were needed for the clinic but were not delivered up the mountain.  It was simply too far and too difficult.
  • We ran out of over-the-counter medicines: Tylenol, vitamins, antacid. These medicines were the ones most commonly prescribed in the clinic.
  • One adult and two children from the school died from cholera.
  • One of the Remote Area Medical volunteers suffered heatstroke.\
  • There was political unrest, closing down the airport and prohibiting a drive to Port-au-Prince. The helicopter ride to Port-au-Prince and the small plane ride to the Dominican Republic were exciting and definitely safer than driving, but much more expensive that any of us had planned for.
  • We were hungry most of the time. There was not enough food for so many extra visitors.  But we should not complain about this.  Haiti ties with Somalia as the hungriest country in the world; I’m told the average Haitian eats three meals per week.  How can we complain about a few hunger pangs?
  • The lack of running water is a definite negative.  We could all smell our poor hygiene.  The bathrooms were disgusting.  But this is daily life for all the people of the area.
  • Running a four-day medical clinic in this setting is like “(piddling) in the wind.” I wonder if it does any real good.  To have a significant impact on health, the area needs more full-time health workers and more supplies.

But there were many positives, also:

  • -Everyone made it to Medor in good health.
  • The Road was repaired enough so that one could drive all the way up to Medor’s market.  The road will likely wash out at the next big rain, but for now it is wonderful to have the ability to make it there by vehicle.
  • The work on the airstrip will probably be completed, which will enable an air ambulance service to be offered to the people of Medor.  This will be the first such service in all of Haiti.
  • Many animals were treated by the Remote Area Medical corps’ veterinarian.
  • Many people received much-needed dental care, and the eye clinic examined and gave out glasses to 182 people.
  • The medical clinic treated more than 700 patients.  Even if many of these patients were in fairly good health, our laying of hands on each person had a positive impact.
  • We learned that much of the illness in the area is related to insufficient health care, malnutrition and under-education.  People suffer from poverty and neglect.
  • We were able to reinforce existing public education initiatives that teach all school children and many clinic patients about cholera and the need to treat water with bleach.
  • We distributed bleach, soap and rehydration packets; things that may actually save lives.
  • We (Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church) committed to provide buckets, spigots, and bleach for the community of 40,000.   This is a huge undertaking for OLQP as well as for the people of the area.  Clean water is so much more important for the health of the community than any health clinic that could be offered.
  • We discussed with the Parish Counsil creating a community scholarship program for high school students.
  • We were able to watch the RAM volunteers in action.  These wonderful people are an inspiration.  The people of Medor and of OLQP will receive unimaginable benefits from the RAM work in the area.
  • Most importantly, we have continued and strengthened our 13-year relationship with with our brothers and sisters in Medor.

It is hard to see how slowly change comes about—The latrines we built are poorly maintained and probably not used properly. Even with the cholera epidemic, many people are resisting the use of bleach in the water.  But OLQP is with the people of Medor for the long haul.  It is wonderful to see the progress in the area and to know that our efforts are partially responsible.  As the people of Medor continue their struggle for a better life, they are helping the people of OLQP.  They make us better people.

-Dr. Sue

A Crazy Friday in Medor

Today has been totally crazy!!

We realized that most of the over-the- counter medicines, the things most used in the clinic, were nearly gone.  We were out of vitamins, antacid, and pain reliever. Also, the glasses most needed by patients were gone. We knew that all patients expect us to give them something to take home.  We knew that there would be lots of patients today — what to do?

I think we came up with a great solution and I wish we had started doing this from Day 1.  We had brought many plastic dropper bottles as well as some bleach powder.  We mixed up the bleach solution and filled the bottles.
After each patient was examined in the clinic they assembled in another room to attend a cholera class.  We discussed what cholera is; how to prevent it; how to treat it.  Across the board, everyone knows at least one person who has died from cholera. After the class, each person was given a bottle of bleach, a piece of soap and five  oral rehydration packets.  I lost track of how many classes were taught.  Some of the classes had more than 40 students.  I think we began a real community education program.  And now we are committed to providing bleach on an ongoing basis.  I think this will have a significant impact.

By 5 a.m. the soccer field near the clinic was filled with patients.  I have not heard the tally of how many patients we treated but it was a lot.

We “admitted” one patient for overnight observation; a woman who was several days postpartum.  Her baby died and she had a very high temperature.  We set up a hospital bed, started an IV, gave an antibiotic and took care of her.  The day ended when a woman came in with cholera–she had been sick since yesterday.  She carried her to the cholera clinic and started two IV’s to get her rehydrated.

There was a near riot because people were tired of waiting.  One of us was jostled around as he was giving out tickets. At one time my classroom was rushed by about 50 unruly people anxious to get the bleach, soap and rehydration packets.

Through all this we have found out that we won’t be able to fly out of Port-au-Prince until Wed at the earliest.  I got an e-mail from the U.S. Embassy suggesting that we stay put in Medor.  We’re trying to arrange to have a helicopter come here, fly us to Port-au-Prince, transfer to a small private plane for shuttle to the Dominican Republic in hopes of getting a flight home.

More to come!
-Dr. Sue

Dr. Mary Sue Carlson Returns to Medor

Note: Mary Sue Carlson, MD, is an ophthalmologist at the Kaiser Permanente Falls Church (Virginia) Medical Center.  She has traveled annually to Medor, Haiti,  for several years through her church organization, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, Va. She traveled to Haiti this month to help provide aid during the cholera epidemic. She sent these two dispatches on Wednesday, Dec. 8:

Today we lost the woman who was in the cholera clinic.  We are all in semi-shock.  If she had been in the United States, where we could have checked labs and monitored her with up-to-date techniques, she may still be alive.  This is one of the hardships of Medor’s remoteness.  If the air ambulance had been operational several days ago, things could be different.

The medical clinic took care of more than 200 patients today– one person with mild cholera–one teen boy who was severely burned during an earthquake aftershock last February.  His arm and hand are totally disfigured and his arm may need to be amputated.  We would transport him to Paul Farmer’s hospital in San Marc, but that hospital is closed to all patients except for those with cholera.

I spoke to all the children in each of the 15 classrooms in the primary school.  They are now all up on how the protect themselves from cholera.  It kept me out of clinic all morning–but this is totally worth it if we can help stem the transmission of the disease.  When the road is totally operational, it may be easier to get bleach up the mountain.

We learned that “Lazarus” is not the only child from the school who died.  One other child also died.  And two other children have gotten cholera and survived.  One girl missed classes for a month.  Today was her first day back in school.  I took her picture and will show you when we return.

Heidi was interviewed by Ann Curry today– NBC seems to be focusing on the airstrip, and the clinic.  We are a bit concerned that they are ignoring the 13 years of groundwork of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

We learned today that Pere Luckson has started an adult education program.  The students at these classes seem excited and determined to learn.

The work on the airstrip is progressing, although slowly.  Pere Luckson will hire more workers to tackle this.  Stan is still optimistic that the work can be completed before the Rural Area Medical Volunteer Corps team leaves but a bit concerned of recent slow going.

Today one RAM volunteer who was working on the airstrip got overheated and dehydrated.  He was treated with IV hydration and told that he is on “vacation” for the rest of the trip.

I took care of 58 patients today–doing eye exams and distributing glasses.  With everything else going on this seems pretty dull and mundane. But the look on the patients’ faces when they are fit with the proper glasses shows that this is still an important function.

When speaking to all the primary school children today I sent them greetings, prayers and love from the people of OLQP.  There is some drama and disappointments going on around here. But it is our twinning relationship, our faith and love for each other gives us strength.

*  *  *

Hello, All.
First – we are all ok.

The election  results are in and many people are accusing the Haitian government of election fraud. Right now there are riots in Port-au-Prince.  The UN has engaged some unruly crowds.  There are tire burnings.  The airport is closed.  Ann Curry and several others from NBC could not leave Medor today as planned.  She has been filming from the rectory porch speaking about the crisis.  This will be aired on (Wednesday night’s) news.

All this and our children in Medor here went to class today as usual.  The clinics were packed.  The farmers conducted business as usual.

This certainly drives home the fact that there are some real blessings to Medor’s remote location.

-Dr. Sue

Dispatches From Haiti Wins PR News Digital PR Award for Best Blog!

We are thrilled to share with you news that this blog was just honored — literally within the hour — with the PR News Digital PR Award for Best Blog!

This award belongs to the dozen or more Kaiser Permanente caregivers who freely gave their time and effort to write the compelling, thoughtful dispatches throughout — all while caring for people injured following a natural disaster of proportions that few of us, hopefully, will see firsthand. Please consider reading through some of the dispatches in this blog. Hopefully they will move you as they moved many of us in the days and weeks following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The PR News’ Digital PR Awards are recognized among the industry’s top  honors in the public relations-communications digital space, showcasing outstanding digital initiatives among corporations, agencies and nonprofit organizations. The awards programs draw more than 1,000 entries each year and highlight some of the best practices in the PR profession. You can read more about the awards at

–Vince Golla

A Kaiser Permanente RN Reflects: ‘The Eyes Tell So Much More’

It has been about three weeks since returning from Haiti and I think I have finally started settling into my “normal” life here.  I decided to write about what Haiti was like from a nurse’s perspective.

The devastation was overwhelming. Everywhere I looked there were buildings crumbled, people standing on broken roads, and women standing in lines that went on for miles, waiting to be distributed a simple bag of rice. I spent my time in Carrefour with Relief International and slept in a tent amidst the mosquitoes, heat, rain, and roosters who had no internal clock and crowed all night.

As a RN, I was fortunate to see every patient who waited for hours to be seen. During our triage time, I was able to speak with them and not only get their chief complaints, but also hear about what happened and where they were during the earthquake. Everyone I came upon had lost someone close to them. Most were still sleeping in the streets because either their house was demolished or they were too afraid to enter because of the fear of another quake hitting. The poverty was overwhelming and malnourished children were the norm.

I was lucky to be able to spend my time there with my friend and fellow Emergency Department colleague Deb Lyon. Together we assisted in training Haitian nurses to take over the clinic as we left. The doctors were wonderful and came with all areas of expertise. During triage we knew who would get the malnourished child, and who would get the patient with hypertension. Our triage skills became stellar.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, but I believe the eyes tell so much more. I can never describe what I have seen, heard, felt, and even smelled, but I do know I will always have a special place for Haiti in my heart. This has been an experience I will forever hold close to me and would do it again in a minute. It has reminded me why I became a nurse and I believe it has made me an even better nurse.

I want to say thank you to Relief International and Kaiser Permanente for giving me this opportunity to share my knowledge and compassion as a nurse to those in need.

Patti Parker, RN, CCRN

Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center

Patti Parker, RN, poses for a photo with a Haitian child injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Patti Parker, RN, replaces a splint for a Haitian child in Carrefour who suffered a fractured tibia and fibula.