Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today was a busy day, but at least I knew it was coming. The big shipment I’ve been planning for since my arrival came in without much of a hitch. We got to the airport and met the plane. Unloading only took an hour or two. The truck was COMEPLETELY stuffed. I mean, totally. The back was completely packed to bursting. The cab was packed. We were jammed in as tight as possible. But we got it, and that’s what matters. Included was the new satellite dish we’ve been waiting for, which everyone has been pretty excited about. I guess I’ll start with that.


We were sold a “portable” VSAT, advertised as something easily carried on a plane. In reality, no airline would touch it: too big and heavy. So that was a setback. But MTI finally got it here, and it’s not really that bad. I was able to set it up by myself, which is good. Generally you need a pro to calculate all the angles, etc., but this one is completely automatic. Just hit a button and it finds the satellite. So that was cool. If you want to see it in action, I took a video. Nerdy and slow, so feel free to ignore. http://www.medicalteams.org/video/vsat.wmv


The bigger news today was our boys in the military. A couple days ago, we started a relationship with the 82nd Airborne. They’ve been by a few times, talking with us about what we need and how they can help. Today they came back with their commander, which we’ve been waiting for. He spent time talking with us and it sounds really promising. They pulled out some wire to start repairing out perimeter so we have security. They committed to sending the commander by every day to make sure we have everything we need. We have them on video talking about the hospital. They’ve reiterated the same thing we keep hearing: this is one of the most professionally run hospitals they’ve ever seen, military included. It’s a huge credit to the amazing medical professionals we have on our team.


The really cool thing is that we had a new anesthesia machine coming in, but we couldn’t get it to the hospital. It’s too sensitive for the “road” going to the hospital. It came in on a USAID flight, and was stuck at the hospital. Somehow, the folks there got hooked up with the Canadian Air Force and loaded in a sling attached to one of their helicopters. In they flew, like a majestic maple leaf on the breeze, towing our precious machine. They descended to a few feet above the roof and set it down.


Of course, in the process, they kicked up all the dust and gravel on the property. And for those of us on the roof, well, it was disastrous. And the entire hospital was covered with a fine layer of soot (windows everywhere). So that took some cleanup. But before I was totally blasted (took a 3-minute eye flush to get it all out), I managed to get most of it on video. http://www.medicalteams.org/video/helicopter_arrival.wmv


There have been more tremors, but not much additional damage to the hospital. It scares the patients pretty good. They’re terrified enough of going into buildings, and the quakes don’t help. I’ve never really feared an earthquake before, but here, it’s terrifying. Knowing the quality of construction and seeing all the wreckage from the last quake, it’s very clear it’s a real, present danger for all of us.


We’ve been safe. Having the military around infuses a certain sense of security, but we haven’t seen any violence yet. Last night, however, as we were packing up, a family came running in with what looked like an eight-year-old boy, covered in blood. A small flight broke out at a government food distribution point, and he was hit in the head with a rock. Our friends in the 82nd broke it up and bandaged his head, and told him to head down the street to our hospital. It was a minor wound, but the family was absolutely terrified, and the boy screaming. He was quickly patched up, but, that’s a good example of the kinds of things we deal with.


Finally, I’m going to be heading home on Wednesday. I should get back to Portland, but I don’t know when yet. I’ll keep you posted.


There’s more pictures uploaded: http://picasaweb.google.com/matthew.turkington/Haiti



1 comment:

Joe Monaco said...

Thanks for all the updates! I have enjoyed reading all your posts and looking at the pics. Did you really use an iPhone?