Thursday, January 21, 2010


Today was a day spent primarily at the airport. We had three flights come in. The first was a cargo flight with an “Interagency Emergency Health Kit (IEHK).” This is something we have on order in Holland, ready to be shipped anywhere in the world. It contains basic medical supplies and medicines, most of what you need to run a hospital. It’s enough to treat 10,000 people for three months. We got 6 pallets worth of this stuff, which is amazing. About the time we finished clearing customs and dropping it off at the hospital, we were late picking up the next team that arrived. And at that point, we just waited for the final flight and took all the supplies and people back to the hospital. So many new faces! There’s well over 20 medical professionals here now.


Things at the hospital are running smoothly, even more so now that we have so many personnel. The IEHK will help with supply, but there’s still some larger equipment and other things we could really use. We’re working as many angles we can. I’m hoping for a military contact personally. Our phones should arrive tomorrow, which will be a huge help, and I hope our satellite Internet doesn’t get delayed any more than it already is (Monday). Once that’s installed and the operations have stabilized, I’ll be looking to head home.


The work the doctors are doing is incredible. So many lives literally saved. The surgeons are booked up most of the day with back-to-back surgeries. We have some amazing orthopedic surgeons that providing critical care. There have been some sad cases of people beyond our care, and we’re working on finding ways to medevac them. We also need crutches, lots of them, for the post-ops. With so many amputations, most of our patients need assistance when they’re discharged. Crutches or prosthetics could be the difference between street beggar and “normal” life.


I’m having a great time with the team. They’re all very friendly and we laugh a lot. Also getting to know my MTI coworkers much better. I’m trapped between two sides: knowing the needs of HQ and how things run there and knowing the field needs and how things run here. I try my best to reconcile those two to make everyone’s life easier, but it doesn’t always happen.


But I also miss home, my wife, cheeseburgers, showers and cold weather.






frank said...

Matt, I want to travel out there and help asap. I am not a doctor, but want to assist in one of the hospitals, like yours for example. Can a private individual like myself pick up a volunteer job just by arriving in town by air or transport from the DR? How can I best accomplish helping out? By the way, do they still need some more of those IEHK's, or are there enough coming in now to go around? Thanks for your advice.

Matt Turkington said...


You're probably not going to like my answer, but unless you have a technical skill set and disaster experience, it's still too eary for layworkers to be in-country. If you don't have a group you go with, you'll have a hard time getting connected down here, finding food, place to stay, etc.

If you decide to to just get down here anyway, well, then you should probably head to the UN and just walk around looking for people with various agency (non-UN) IDs and start asking who needs help. That's the main coordination center for everyone here.

But, regardless, flights are still difficult to come by. You can get to the DR, yes, but then you need a ride over and border crossing, etc.

Honestly, the best thing you can do right now is take whatever money you would spend getting down here and give it to a group that's sending doctors, as they are still the biggest need right now. Very much like Katrina, in a couple months things will settle here and they'll be ready for layworkers to help rebuild the country.