By Tom Wilson
Bonjour from Delmas, Port au Prince, Haiti. I am with a medical team from Rush University in Chicago. We are spending a week in Haiti treating patients in a clinical setting. This is my journal documenting our trip:
Day One: Bumped from the 8 a.m. flight out of O’Hare. Dave and Sandra Unger from Minneapolis made the flight, rest of the party traveling to Haiti left on the 10 a.m. flight to Miami. Our departure was delayed over an hour due to snowy weather conditions at O’Hare. We are certain to miss our connecting flight. We arrived in Miami and learned that our flight to Port au Prince, Haiti, was delayed due to a mechanical problem and later canceled. The airport in Haiti many times does not have lights on the runway in the evening and the pilot refuses to land after dark. Dave and Sandra are waiting at the airport.
So my first night on the trip is spent roughing it in a king-size bed at the Doubletree in Miami compliments of American Airlines. Grilled shrimp and mahi mahi tacos with mojitos at the hotel bar watching the Super Bowl. Work tomorrow.
Day Two: We arrive in Port au Prince on schedule at 9:30 a.m., but our checked luggage (meds) does not! Our bags with the medications will be on the 4 p.m. flight. Traveling through Port au Prince, the devastation is overwhelming. So many families in tents, collapsed concrete buildings, and motorcycles and open-air busses jammed with people. I learned my first Creole French word: gen blocus, which means traffic jam.
We connect with Stephanie Wang, our team leader, and our transportation — a luxury, air conditioned minibus. Our logistics coordinator, Alfredo Hernandez, has arranged that we will work in a church-based community clinic organized by Pastor Lemet Zepher at the Eglise Khartienne in Carrefour. Even with our late arrival, we are able to treat 50 patients in the clinic. We will be at this clinic Monday through Wednesday. I inventoried the pharmacy and later entertained the local children — so many young children hungry for knowledge and friendship with the strangers from abroad. We had late lunch of ham and cheese on a baguette after the clinic closed.
We travel back to the airport to get our luggage through the traffic … cars traveling in all different directions at each intersection and tight squeezes through narrow alleyways. At dusk we arrive at our hostel run by Pastor Jonathan Joseph in Delmas Section of Port au Prince. Dinner of chicken, black beans and rice, mixed vegetables and potatoes au gratin.
I fall asleep with the sound of the yellow dog in the street barking and wake up to the sounds of roosters crowing.
Tom Wilson is assistant vice president, Research Affairs, and senior research administrator at Rush University Medical Center. This is Tom’s first humanitarian mission to Haiti.