Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remembering Haiti Two Years After Tragedy

In the days following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that decimated the island nation of Haiti on January 14, 2010, volunteers from the MGH were en route to assist the response. Traveling with federal organizations including the Boston-area MA-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) and the International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT) as well as relief organizations including Project Hope, Partners in Health and others, MGH volunteers assisted in treating victims of the most catastrophic natural disaster in Haiti’s recorded history. Two years later, on Jan. 19, members of the MGH community gathered in the O’Keeffe Auditorium to commemorate, remember, and reflect on the experience that forever impacted an untold number of lives.

Welcoming the group, Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, senior vice president for Patient Care and chief nurse, recalled the immediate need to provide support to Haitian employees at the MGH in addition to the international disaster response.

“We turned our attention immediately in a very different direction than we normally do with a worldwide disaster  – this time our immediate response was inward because we knew we had over 300 of our very own who came from Haiti or had family and loved ones in Haiti,” said Ives Ericson. “I recall, thanks to Mike McElhinny, our Chaplaincy director, our chapel being transformed. It became a gathering place to not only share pain but also to find comfort. The love of the MGH community was there.”

HEALING HAITI: Anesthesiologist Paul Firth, MBChB, who deployed to Haiti after the earthquake, reflects during the memorial event

MGH imaging technician Renold Audate, who is from Haiti, recalled deploying to his home country. “Shortly after the devastating earthquake…that hit the beautiful island of Haiti, the MGH group of volunteers composed of doctors, nurses, imaging technologists like myself, were on the hospital ship USNS Comfort doing we do best – saving lives,” he said. “Today, we are gathering here to remember those who lost their lives during this tragedy and at the same time to applaud the effort of our professionals who left their family behind and gave up their comfort for three weeks to help patients.”

Volunteers from the MGH continue to return to Haiti to provide support through the various stages of injury recovery. In the summer of 2011 an additional team supported by the MGH Center for Global Health and the Thomas S. Durant Fellowship in Refugee Medicine worked to combat a rising cholera epidemic through patient care and clinical training.

Additional speakers included Malcolm Smith, MD, who served in country with Partners in Health as well as Marjorie Curran, MD, who initially deployed with Project Hope and again with the cholera response team in 2011. Each reflected on the both the dedication of their colleagues and the perseverance and dignity of the Haitian people.

McElhinny closed the memorial by reciting a quote a fellow MGH chaplain had heard in the streets of Haiti as described by a fellow MGH chaplain who had deployed there.  

“We may stumble, but we will not fall.”













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