Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Headed to Haiti

As many of you have heard, I’m on my way to Haiti. And that seemed like good a reason as any to start blogging again.


I received a call at 7am this morning from my VP at Medical Teams asking if I could be on a noon flight to Fort Lauderdale, heading on to Haiti. “No,” I responded flatly. Over the week since the earthquake, I had been scheduled to go twice, both times cancelled due to logistical complications. During that time, I had been working on a deployable communications package to provide better operational support to our teams on the ground. The plan was to send me with it when it was complete, but I thought I would have at least a couple days warning. Actually, in the back of my mind, I suspected this might happen, but didn’t prepare nearly as well as I should have.


It was determined around 9:30am that I would be on a noon flight to Florida to catch the 4am charter into Port-au-Prince. I left the office in a mad dash to collect supplies and pack. Meanwhile, folks back at MTI were packing bags of supplies to be carried in (I’ve been called “pack mule” and “Sherpa” many times today). Despite driving entirely too fast to the airport and arriving 20 minutes early, I wasn’t allowed to board the plane. This was especially bad news, given it was already the last flight into Fort Lauderdale that would arrive before the 4am departure.  And that flight had been given special permission to land in Port-au-prince, something we don’t know when we’ll get again.


The particular Delta desk agent was, honestly, unhelpful. It wasn’t until another agent came over in response to the pleading that we finally got somewhere. They could get me into Orlando at midnight – a 3 hour drive down to Ft. Lauderdale. It would mean driving all night to catch the flight, but I agreed and made a rush for the gate.


Now I’m on a plane outside Orlando. In the belly of the plane are several bags of vital supplies and communications equipment. I’ve been watching CNN for the last couple hours, catching up on the situation. During the course of this flight, Larry King and friends raised $5 million for the Red Cross and UNICEF. Right now, Anderson Cooper is reporting live. It’s heartbreaking to see the situation I’ll be walking into. He’s talking with CNN’s chief medical correspondent/neurosurgeon. They’re bewildered that more doctors and basic medical supplies aren’t getting into the country. They’re desperately pleading for more help. I know firsthand it’s more complicated than it often appears to get help in. We’re working on it! I want to find him while I’m there and show him what we’re doing. My friend Jordan is on a Navy ship off the coast. I hope to find him too.


I hope to provide regular updates, pictures and video if the connectivity allows, which is sort of what I’m there to do. I hope to take some of the operational load off the medical professionals so they can do what they’re there to do. I don’t know what all my responsibilities will fully include, but I’m just there to help.


It’s remarkably similar to my deployment after Hurricane Katrina. I was called up at the last minute to head down to the Gulf Coast to lead a team of volunteer network engineers in building a wireless communications infrastructure to replace what had been destroyed. We were able to provide phone and data services to hospitals, police, fire, government and relief camps along the entire coast. While my scope this time around will be much more limited, the need is still certainly there.


I’d like to thank Robert, Tammy, Mary Ellen, Catherine and the others at MTI that worked so hard to get me and this cargo in the air. My mom and the folks at St. Vincent’s for getting me the medicines I need for my safety. Thank you to everyone who has supported the work of MTI, enabling me and others to go and provide life-saving services. Last, but certainly not least, my loving wife, Taylor, for being so supportive and letting me go. I love you.


More from Haiti.






Skype: mturkington




Leo DeBruyn said...

You're in our prayers. Please let us know if you have particular requests as things come up.

Elina Hamilton エリーナ・ハミルトン said...

Praying for you Matt. And I'm glad that you on in charge of organizing things - I can't think of anyone who would be better at it.

The O'Neills said...

Hi Matt, can you smuggle a Haitian Orphan home for me? I'm pretty serious. Sooo if you can that'd be grrreeeat...