Dr. Nelson, Dr. Archer and I made the decision that if I was going to return home, it was better for me to go quickly while Scott and Jason were there to help provide overlap of leadership, thus by mid-day on Monday we started making plans for me to return home. We left the hospital Monday night at 7:30PM for what I thought would be a routine run to the airport to hop a USAF flight out of Port-au-Prince. The USAF have been flying multiple flights a day back to the states for US citizens. This has been the best way out for many of our volunteers for the last week. Sunday night we made a similar run delivering DuWayne Carlson and had confirmation of his arrival in Florida early Monday morning. Upon arrival at the airport, I jumped out of the hospital ambulance said my good byes to Jason and Jim and walked the 300 meters to where I would meet the folks organizing the USAF flights. As I walked up to the I.C.E (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) I got a sick feeling in my stomach which was soon confirmed, NO MORE USAF FLIGHTS. I turned to see the hospital truck driving away in the distance. To say I was in a bad situation would be significant understatement. Not only were there no planned flights, they were no longer letting people into the airport secure area to wait or try and thumb a ride. My options were sleep the night on the curb, run about a mile down a dark and dangerous street to the other end of the airport where the truck was headed to pick up goods, or take a very scary taxi driver up on his offer to "help" me for $20. While I had some contacts written in my book in my backpack I had given my Haiti cell phone to Jason with all of the important contacts in it. I chose to take the western option, fall back on your trusty iPhone. Called Jerry in states, to get Jason's U.S. number... quickly tried to call Jason who was in the truck, no luck. Who else to call? How about email... Jean-Marc, Scott's ultra resourceful french friend here in Haiti, no phone # for Jean-Marc... wait, there, it's the hospital truck driving on the other side of the airport fence... wave the iPhone they might see the light... PRAY... Yes, the truck is slowing... the truck turns my way. While incredibly thankful to not have to spend the night on the ground at the airport curb, I was sooooo bummed. The drive back to the hospital was a solemn one as I considered that my next possible return home would not come until the 20th of February. I got back to the hospital slipped a note under Scott's door telling him I was still there and went to bed.
6AM Tuesday morning Scott knocked on my door, said pack your bags we're getting you home one way or another. "bags" well that was kinda funny since all of my stuff other than my laptop and the clothes I had worn the day before were locked in his room. I grabbed my backpack and we were off. A stop off at the community hospital and a quick call to CURE international and my hope was restored. CURE had a small charter flight of major donors in the air coming from the D.R. that I and two other CURE surgeons might be able to get on to return to the D.R. We jumped back in the car and raced (through horrendous Haiti traffic) to the airport. The procedures at the PAP airport are a new deal everyday you go. Knowing that the plane coming in was small, and that all small international arrivals had been coming to the General Aviation ramp that is where we went to meet it. The plane was supposed to arrive at 9:30 and we made it with 1 min to spare, but there was no plane. By 9:45 we started to get nervous and decided that one of the team had better head to the other part of the airport to see if the plane was there. 10 minutes later he came racing back waving his arms and yelling to get in the truck as the plane was loaded with other passengers and was getting ready to leave. We raced through the international terminal with various security and people wondering what we were doing but we didn't care, got our passports stamped and ran out on the tarmac and into our little plane. 1 hour later we were on the ground in Santo Domingo headed to the CURE hospital for a bite to eat and then to the International airport for flights to the states. An overnight in Florida, I'm currently over Dallas soon to be in landing in Los Angeles. If you see me, take a wide berth, I'm in the same clothes I had on Monday night when I started trying to come home.
Please continue your prayers for our work at the hospital. The situation there continues to be very dynamic, tenuous, dire, and very stressful. I believe we are making a difference there now and can do great things in the future. As always, please continue to give via the donate now button at the top of the page as this is truly the best way you can help the people of Haiti now and for the long term.
And now for some long overdue pictures
(Photo credit: Jason Wells)
The Old SDA Church at the University
The Nelsons in front of the bakery at the university
The new PEDS unit
His only toy
Sharing pictures of my boys with my little friends
A vendor in the Ally behind the hospital
The very hot and humid hospital kitchen
Non-functional hospital laundry
Functional hospital laundry
Our ride out of Haiti