The 2014 ASSH Touching Hands Project team met at the Miami International Airport on Sunday, July 6th to depart for Port au Prince, Haiti. Our team comprises three hand surgeons, one hand fellow, one anesthesiologist, two nurse anesthetists, two nurses, and two hand therapists: Scott Kozin, MD, Mark Baratz, MD, George Dyer, MD, Michael Nakashian, MD, Harry Bonet, MD, Sophorn Mot, RN - CRNA, Kim Russo, RN - CRNA, Susan Shapiro, RN, Garvey Jonassaint, RN, Chris Novak, PT, PhD and Rebecca von der Heyde, OTR/L, PhD.
We arrived in Port au Prince and waited patiently (and warmly) for the 15 large bags of medical supplies that had been carefully packed and tagged in preparation for the trip. Twelve of the bags made it on the flight, and after three hours of waiting for the additional three, it became clear that they would not arrive the same day. Having two team members who speak Haitian Creole and could assist in this situation was invaluable, as I’m certain will be the case for the entirety of the mission.
We were greeted by drivers from the Haiti Adventist Hospital and the team fit snugly in the back of an ambulance to depart for our hotel. Our personal luggage and all the supply bags were strategically packed within and on top of another truck… and no supplies were lost en route! The devastation of the 2010 earthquake was evident as we passed through Port au Prince, including makeshift shanty towns and markets.
The Hotel Auberge de Quebec will be our “home” for the week, and after checking in, we met with Chris Mackee and Dr. Francel Alexis for orientation. Chris serves as the program manager and volunteer coordinator for the Haiti Adventist Hospital and Dr. Alexis is the orthopedic surgeon we will be collaborating with throughout the week. After review of the schedule for the week and suggestions for our stay in Haiti, we settled into the hotel and spent some time relaxing before our first team dinner.
At the end of our first day together, it is clear that we have a very talented and thoughtful group who have come together to contribute to the inaugural Touching Hands Project mission. Some are familiar with Haiti, others familiar with mission work, all with open hands and hearts willing to serve the Haitian people.