"I can't believe it has been a year already. January 12, 2010 was one of the worst days of my life, but it made such a strong impact on my life at the same time." -- Dr. Sherma Morton, Charlotte Obgyn
The Observer asked relief workers who travelled to Haiti in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake to share their reflections about the experience. We’ll publish responses online and in the newspaper over the next week.
Louise Rogers, 47, Charlotte, Obstetrician – Gynecologist
The Charlotte doctor traveled to Cap-Haitien with the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti in February for a two week relief trip. The team worked at Sacre Coer Hospital in Milot, a 65-bed hospital that was holding more than 250 earthquake victims. She was in charge of evacuee tents that each contain roughly 30 patients.
1. Why did you go to Haiti?
"I had visited Haiti in 2006 and 2007 and the friends I made had been directly impacted by the earthquake and even though I wasn’t able to help or see them while I was there in 2010 I felt like I was reaching out to them. I also thought that as a surgeon my skills would be helpful caring for earthquake victims."
2. How are you reflecting on the anniversary and the experience you had?
"Being involved with HHFoH has ensured that I have continued to think of Haiti regularly throughout the last year. I am glad that the anniversary has come so that Haiti’s problems will be on the minds of most Americans again. People continue to ask me about my trip and my experiences and sharing the same stories and pictures helps reassure me that people in the US still care about Haiti. Due to my work schedule and other commitments I haven’t been able to go back to Haiti but there are many people who express an interest in going and I hope to encourage others to go and see what Haiti is like while I stay home and work to help rebuild Haiti from here (for now)."
3. Is there any one person or thing that has held the majority of your thoughts?
"I think about the patient at Milot who was a young girl, paralyzed from a spinal injury who was taken by the British neurosurgeon to join the long term care facility they have a few miles from Milot. I hope and am fairly certain that she is doing well. However, I keep remembering that he said he had 40 people to consider for the one spot in their facility.
There are hundreds of paralyzed patients in Haiti and who is taking care of them? Where are they? Have they died from lack of care? I just can’t imagine the average Haitian being able to handle the problems that come with a paralyzed family member. In the US, we have institutions and home nurses and physical therapists that help and it is still remarkably difficult. How are people with no shelter and minimal funds able to do it? I’m afraid that some of these patients have been left to die."
4. What do you see as the successes and challenges in Haiti?
"The success is that Haiti is still on the minds of the international community. The challenges are huge – the lack of organization and success of the Haitian government and people themselves makes me wonder if they will ever have a better life despite our help.It’s a lot easier for me to pay my taxes in the US when I see how our governments provides for us. I wish the Haitian government could do more for the Haitian people but I don’t have much optimism that will happen."
Sabrina Joline-Ellis, 22, dental student at Meharry Medical
The Charlotte dental student originally from Haiti traveled to Cap-Haitien with the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti in February for a two week relief trip. The team worked at Sacre Coer Hospital in Milot, a 65-bed hospital that was holding more than 250 earthquake victims. Joline-Ellis worked in the pediatric unit with some 45 kids.
"I remember being in my dorm room and hearing a knock at my door. That knock would change my life forever. My suitemate came in to tell me that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and I needed to call home. After hearing about the disaster in 2010, I teamed up with HHFoH to provide any medical and emotional support needed. When I got there, I was placed in the pediatric ward and intensive care unit where I translated, changed wound dressings, administered some medicine, told stories, danced, cried, and realized who I really was. I think about how no matter how much we try, we are still a long way from rebuilding the Haiti I knew a long time ago.
The people of Haiti have been suffering for a long time, and now we are rebuilding- literally-brick by brick. Since my trip to Haiti, My friends and I have been collecting and sending clothes for those still being hospitalized and those just in need.
Some may ask me with the earthquake anniversary coming up, how do I feel and what do I think about? Thing is, I think about it every day. I think about Dove, Sandia, Yvelene, and how it’s because of them I am pursuing a career in pediatric dentistry. I think about reuniting babies with their parents and protecting those who were possible orphans. I think about how my grandfather’s house was literally 57 steps away from the hospital where we were trying to save lives. Like I said before, I don’t wait until January to think about what happen. I’m reminded of it every day when I look at myself in the mirror. The earthquake impacted my life majorly. It made me stronger."
Dr. Sherma Morton, 32, an obgyn from South Charlotte.
Sherma Morton's family is from Haiti. The Charlotte doctor traveled to Cap-Haitien with the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti in February for a two week relief trip. The team worked at Sacre Coer Hospital in Milot, a 65-bed hospital that was holding more than 250 earthquake victims. Morton was one of the only doctors in the women’s unit.
"I can't believe it has been a year already. January 12, 2010 was one of the worst days of my life, but it made such a strong impact on my life at the same time. I initially thought losing my Godmother in the quake would have been enough to shake my foundation, but actually being able to go there and helped teach me more then all my medical training could.
I am Sherma Morton, an obgyn in Charlotte who was blessed with the opportunity to go with the group HHFOH to Haiti last year. I remember when we just got there, my heart bled for the victims. I didn't think I could have done anything to impact the people of Haiti. Little did I know when I landed back in Charlotte I would be the one that would be forever changed.The people that endured but still persevered gave me hope and drive to do more with my life. I was humbled by my grief and enlightened by their strength. I am forever grateful for the time, but I felt horribly guilty for leaving. For having water, food, a place to lay my head, my limbs and for my life. For something that made no sense to have happened it made my life's purpose very clear. That was my year in a nutshell and I wouldn't change a moment of my growth. I just pray my country will have the same monumental growth as I did.Keep praying for Haiti and don't forget them."
Thomas Hall, 47, Waxhaw, Paramedic
The Fort Mill paramedic traveled to Cap-Haitien with the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti in February for a two week relief trip. The team worked at Sacre Coer Hospital in Milot, a 65-bed hospital that was holding more than 250 earthquake victims. He took over organizing EMT helicopter response.
"Back in January after the earthquake I felt the need to help. I have responded to natural disasters on several occasions as a paramedic and thought my experience could be helpful. I learned about the trip being sponsored by Haitian Heritage and Friends of Haiti and was able to go with HHFoH to Haiti in February.During my time there I did med-surg nursing and helped coordinate patients being transported in and out by helicopter. Our time and work there was exhausting, but very rewarding. Once back from Haiti I became involved with HHFoH and started to understand the long term needs in Haiti. One need I noticed was the lack of emergency services. The ambulances we saw were not equipped and the drivers had no first aid training, they were only the driver.With HHFoH we were able to purchase a used ambulance and equip it with donated emergency medical equipment. I was able to return to Haiti in September to provide first aid training to the drivers and provided training to doctors and nurses that will respond with the ambulance on calls for help. We have purchased another ambulance that we are preparing to be used as a mobile clinic in some of the communities out in the country that does not have access to medical care. I plan to return to Haiti in March to help with the initial set-up of the mobile clinic.The greatest successes would be the overall response to Haiti from the medical community as a whole; from the initial response to the continued support given for the cholera epidemic. (Personally it's the ambulance and the training we provided and knowing it will be used to make a difference). The greatest challenges are going to be the lack of healthcare infrastructure that's needed to meet the needs of their citizens. This causes them to rely on international response. From the stand point of HHFoH, it's finding the funding and resource to continue the work that we have started. So we can assist in building the healthcare infrastructure that's needed."
The Charlotte doctor traveled with Dr. Will Conner to help the injured in Cap-Haitian last February. Worked at Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, a 65-bed hospital that held more than 250 earthquake victims. He was in charge of an evacuee tent for roughly 30 patients
"One year ago, I watched with my family the news of the earthquake in Haiti. I've known Dr. Will Conner most of my life, and it didn't surprise me at all that he felt called to go help.I was pleased when Will called me a couple weeks later to see if I would be able to join him and a group to go to Hospital Sacre Coeur in Milot, Haiti. I remember telling a few friends in Charlotte that I was going ... and within a few days, checks began pouring in from all over to help with medical supplies. Charlotte has a big heart.When we arrived at the hospital in Milot, I was the doctor assigned to tent #4. My first patient was Joseph Edelyn, (a young man) who all the staff called "Light" because of his infectious smile. Joseph was a double amputee, whose family had been killed in the earthquake when his home was destroyed. He had nowhere to go, no family to reach out to, and yet his gentle optimism seemed to light up the entire tent. I just remember how gracious he was. He thanked everyone around him and thanked God for being alive.Later, when our team returned to Charlotte and my children ran up to me at the airport, I remember getting very emotional as I told them about Joseph and our trip to Haiti. We have so much to be thankful for, and I am grateful for meeting my friend Joseph and giving me a new perspective.I also remember Laurant, our 85-year-old patient who developed pneumonia and went into respiratory failure on our second day at the hospital. He was intubated and my friend, Mac, sat with him throughout the night in the ICU, monitoring his vitals...The next day, we prepared his family for the worst, and yet Laurant showed his own strength and determination by pulling through. It's unusual to live past age 60 in Haiti. To meet someone as strong and wise as Laurant was a gift.My favorite follow-up e-mail was from my nurse in Haiti: "Tell Dr. Hayes Joseph was walking on a temp prosthesis and crutches and that Laurant is like a new man, totally with it and sitting up and feeding himself...."The experience in Haiti changed me. It gave me new perspective on my life... We have so much to be thankful for. I look forward to my next trip back to Haiti so that I can take a long walk with my friend Joseph."