Haiti is amazing! The amazement begins on a private jet flying 43,000 feet over the Bahama Islands and continues as you fly across the mountain ranges of Haiti. Unreal. It looks like Hawaii, but then as you approach the airport you see the Navy Comfort ship, aircraft carriers, Apache helicopters, Nancy Pelosi’s plane and you know this is Haiti.
With some anxiety and excitement we step from the plane to the tarmac and smell the smoke with helicopters coming and going. We try to exchange greetings and notes with our comrades who are leaving in just a few minutes, as they run for the plane. We push our three truckloads of boxes through a customs “office” set up in a doorway of a terminal with cracked walls as French, Canadian, UN, and US soldiers are milling about. Luckily, a few local entrepreneurs help us with our supplies and wisk us off to the Double Harvest Mission. It is a 30-minute ride through the northern part of Port-Au-Prince that missed the worst of the Earthquake; however, there still were many collapsed buildings and cities of tents. In the midst of this we saw a pick up soccer game in a sandy city corner, people sitting at a local eatery, and vendors sitting on corners. Parts of life look like they’re starting to return to some semblance of normal. The road turns from paved, to roughly paved, to dirt, and then to large rocks as we make our way to Double Harvest (2H).
Double Harvest is a two story building sitting in the middle of a two-hundred acre farm with a tilapia fish farm, green house, and Christian school. The scenery is amazing as you step onto the second story deck overlooking the farm with sugar cane fields behind it and the mountains reaching up into the setting-sun sky. The second floor of the building houses the visiting medical staff with enough bedrooms, kitchen space and a bathroom where all of us are very comfortable. We are all well fed with Chef Richard’s fresh tilapia, fruits and veggies. The AC is also a welcome relief from the blazing heat. The first floor houses the walk-in clinic, two OR’s and the recovery room. The patient rooms consist of two converted open-air garage stalls. The patients lie on the floor on mattresses placed on top of boards of insulation. We feel somewhat guilty, but they are happy to be here. We know from what we have seen that they are better off than most, discharging them home is difficult, since most of them have no place to go. Their homes are obviously gone and everyone has lost someone dear to them. Privacy does not exist in our hospital at 2H, yet the Haitian people are obviously very proud and we do our best to maintain their dignity. Their spirit and resiliency is amazing. We see that every day as they say “Merci.”
Thomas M. Matelic