Hello to everyone,
I am writing you today to try to give words to the devastation in Haiti. First I would like to thank all of you for your prayers while I was in Haiti from Day 2 after the earthquake to Day 23. I came in through the Dominican border town of Jimani to Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas.
My first mission was to bring a doctor who hitched a ride with us at the border to a clinic that needed help. We rode as far as we could, then hopped out of the truck we were riding in, and hiked our way the last couple of miles to the clinic and orphanage. We came upon the clinic first. It was filled with people in need of medical attention. I walked into the exam room where I new I would find April ( a good American friend of mine that runs the local clinic). She looked up at me with a dazed look when she saw me appear and said, “Grant I have a boy here who has a large open chest wound and I am an RN and I have been praying that someone can help this child”.
I told her that a doctor had traveled in with me and made quick introductions before the doc rolled up his sleeves and went to work with April saving this child’s life.
I left after only minutes and continued on to the orphanage, not knowing what to expect. The last 1/4 mile I found myself getting faster and faster paced. When I approached the front gate of the compound I found that the gate was the only thing standing of the entire front and back walls of the 400 x 800 ft compound.
I was greeted with more surprised looks and many hugs and kisses. All 150 children and 15 workers were not harmed in the 7.0 initial earthquake. The buildings, however, could not say the same. The ten foot front and rear walls had collapsed. The two large two story concrete dormitories were damaged. The boys’ dorm had not collapsed, but several areas had been cracked both upstairs and down. The girls’ dorm was much worse. One end of the entire building had collapsed due to a large water tank sitting on the roof in that area. You could look into the bed rooms and see the bunk beds from the outside.
All of the smaller one story metal roof buildings that were on the compound survived with little to no damage. After surveying and taking pictures of the damage I gathered all the children and the workers into the church building and we sat and talked. I explained to them some more details about what had happened, and reassured them that our filtered water supply that was reduced to half capacity was still more than enough for our needs. We then talked about aftershocks, and evacuation plans, security until the walls were repaired, and sleeping arrangements for the next 30 to 45 days. I took some time and answered some questions, and explained to them that all the people of the world had their eyes fixed on Haiti, and were working towards bringing medical food, water, and supplies to aid everyone.
I then gathered the Haitian directors and workers together, and we discussed shifts to stay up and guard the orphanage at night. Fortunately, the area is rural and mostly friendly to the orphanage. The only concern was looters and robbers looking to take advantage of the destruction.
We never had a single problem. Thanks to God again.
Now Roselle, the director, and I turned our sights on acquiring a reserve food supply. On day two of this disaster the local bulk food depot had not been emptied by frantic people worried about the supply chain being broken. Most people were still in shock, locating family members, and seeking medical attention. So we proceeded to pay up our debt to the supply house and acquire about another week’s worth of food to feed the 165 people.
Next I went to the team housing property. This is a rented home where people at any time during the year can stay and work in Haiti. It can comfortably house and feed 25 visitors at a time. About $30 a day covers food, lodging, and some transportation. I arrive at the team house to find a large amount of cracking of the two story structure . I took pictures of the damage and met with the owner about repairs. We then met with 2 different engineers about the damages at the house and the orphanage in order to make some decisions about repairs. They concluded that the house was structurally sound and repairs could be started immediately. The time frame of 3 weeks was established to complete the repairs, and the landowner went promptly to work at it the next morning.
I could not sleep that first night, and little did I know that there would be very little opportunity for sleep for the remainder of my trip. As I lay on a cot staring at the stars in the front yard of a friend’s house, my mind was going a hundred miles an hour. Then I decided to pray, and as I spent some time asking for direction, protection, and provision for all the people I knew, I heard some singing it sounded like a choir in the middle of the night. By this time it was 4am and I just had to figure out where the singing was coming from.
I knew I was still too wound up to sleep. So I walked down the road to a friend’s church where about 25 Haitians were singing like it was 11am on Sunday! I entered respectfully and went to the back and continued my own quiet time with God. While those people were singing over the next two hours I became very aware of God’s presence in that place. Many thoughts came flooding into my mind about why Haiti? Why now? These people have it so tough on a good day.
My heart was heavy for only a moment, because I started to understand because they are tough enough to take it. They can sing the night away rejoicing in the midst of the most devastating time in recent history. Their faith and determination to overcome and endure a true inspiration.
It was at this point I felt God answering some of my earlier questions. These are truly people all people of the modern world should take note of and learn from. Granted their country is in ruins, and the oppression they suffer has been long and hard to date, but their faith is something that can’t be broken. Character is only tested in adversity.
My hat is off to the Haitian people! My hat is also off to all those who have responded to the need. From doctors, to search and rescue, to military, to missionaries, to all the prayers and donations from back home. God bless you all!!
What has been, is being, and will be accomplished through the unity of compassion will forever be an inspiration to me. I left that church about 6:30 or 7 am after all the 75 people by then had had their feet washed including my own. We felt this was symbolic of the work that was ahead for all of us to do.
I then returned to my friend’s house where I cleaned up, ate a bite and loaded up into one of our orphanage vehicles that was an old bread truck from Tennessee. I recruited a couple of boys from the orphanage to ride along and we proceeded to pick people up from the streets and the first aid clinics, and transport them to get proper medical treatment. The first couple of days I took them to a hospital– run by East Tennessee folks–in Jimani, on the Dominican border.
We ran people back day and night, re-fueling in the Dominican and returning and siphoning off diesel for the generators at the orphanage, clinic, and team home. Then we would run all the next day on the remaining fuel and fill up again the next night. By day 4 after the quake the Israel medical corps set up a full military tent hospital in Port-au-Prince.
On the same day the University of Miami Medical Center opened another tent hospital at the PAP airport. With both of these facilities now running I shortened my route to picking up critical patients in the PAP area and dropping them at these two facilities. We made fast friends with both the Miami hospital volunteers and the Israel military. Both groups were instrumental in saving thousands of lives. The Israel troops had the best hospital in country for the first two weeks after the quake. Then the Miami hospital got up to speed and the USS Comfort hospital ship arrived in the bay.
I have never seen so many helicopters operating at one time–they were like bees all over the area.
Many thanks go out to our friends at Kingdom Ops Security for their protection at the hospital until US military took over the airbase sometime between week two and three. More friends for life!
The next thing to give mention was the Miami Magnificent Seven. These guys were made up of EMT’s, paramedics, firefighters, and ambulance personnel. They were looking to get in the thick of things and became the ambulance crew for the next week until they rotated home. Made up of young, tough-talking Cuban and Miami medical personnel, they became a fixture on the bread truck wherever and whenever it was rolling. Patients straight out of the rubble, or a newborn baby needing slowly fed oxygen through a hand bag, serious lacerations, every kind of broken bone, these guys handled every patient with love and care. If we were stopped in traffic with people on board they would jump off and make a hole for the ambulance to go through.
At night, usually long after midnight, I would take them to the orphanage or to the porch of our guest house and give them a cot or mattress to sleep on, sometimes even a shower. We would eat our MRE’s (army “Meals Ready to Eat”) and sleep under the stars. At the crack of dawn we would be on the road again.
My favorite part was seeing those tough guys turn to mush in the hands of the kids from our orphanage. Ha ha! It happens every time.
When those boys rotated back I picked up another group to replace them from Seattle and one or two other places. They jumped right in and did not miss a beat: patient after patient from outlying areas to patient transfers to the ship, everyone pitching in.
Dr. Toni gets the award for most compassionate doctor. I never once saw a patient for whom she did not take the time to listen to their story, take care of their needs, and look after them long beyond their medical treatment. I know that there were many who fit that description working tirelessly in Haiti during this time, but she gets my vote. She spent 24 days straight without even a proper thank you.
So, Dr. Toni: thank you from all the Haitians whom you loved and showed that you care.
The last few days were mixed with loading the truck with supplies for the kids, and running as many patients as possible without falling asleep behind the wheel. Once or twice I had to snap myself out of nodding off. Usually there was so much going on around you that you couldn’t relax enough to worry about it.
My last crew was a few guys from Utah. I was blessed to have those guys rides while we both transferred patients to other facilities and even took a few home on stretchers.
My last ride before going home was taking a lady with a severely fractured pelvis to the Italian hospital for treatment, and taking home newborn triplets in the middle of the night to some place so far out in the boonies I had to rely on driving towards the lights on some power lines in hopes to find a real road again.
Thankfully, I made it home safely. I must admit I would still be there rebuilding the compound with the teams, but it was time to refuel my tank.
So in closing, thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. Thanks to the guys from Open Hands for their hard work. Thanks to Joel and April for their friendship and service together. Thanks to Randy Massey for allowing me to go free from worry. Thanks to my family who since 1993 have done all they could do in every circumstance to support the work God has called me to do.
Above all, thanks to Jesus Christ whose example I can never live up to, but who gives me a standard to shoot for.
Remember the work in Haiti that will go on when the media moves on to the next big thing.
…….Grant Rimback grant@Gods-Planet.com