In response to the 7.2M earthquake that struck the south of Haiti at 8:30am on August 14, 2021, Roberta VanDine (MD and wife to Country Director, Neil VanDine) immediately stepped up to the plate to offer her services. Sharing, “As a medical doctor I could not stay without doing anything when I know my people need me.” She contacted a friend, pediatrician Dr. Djoana Dagobert who resides in the affected area, to ask how she could help. Dr. Djoana Dagobert put her in touch with Dr. Bertilde Borgella who is also from Camp Perrin, and together they began calling other doctors and put a team together. Their group was comprised of Dr. Berry from Project Hope in Pignon, Dr. Seide Agnes, Dr. Florine Pierre from Camp Perrin, and 3 nurses from Aquin.
On Wednesday the group flew from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes. Thursday they wasted no time and set out to work at the Beraca health center with Dr Petit Homme from the Camp Perrin Rotary club, and saw around 80-100 patients in the morning. Their morning was spent cleaning infected wounds and providing psychological support.
In the afternoon they traveled to Toirac, where they saw another 100 patients. During their time in Toirac, Dr. Van Dine received a call from a friend who asked her to visit Ferme Le Blanc since they had not received any help. Unfortunately, a large river has flooded the access point to Ferme Le Blanc which prevented aid workers from entering to offer support. Dr. Van Dine desperately wanted to help, but knew it would not be feasible without a reliable car to traverse the flooded river. The Rotary Club of Camp Perrin made arrangements for a vehicle to transport the medical team to Ferme Le Blanc. The journey was not without risk, she shared, “It was scary to see the flooded river and how the water was raging. We took off our shoes, rolled our pants up, and carried the the medical supplies on our head and back to cross the water.” That was not the worst part of their journey, Dr. Van Dine explained, “When we arrived, we saw the worst situation of all. The people had been promised that a helicopter would be sent to take the wounded patients to the hospital, but no one came.” Having endured great trauma, they were scared, wounded, violent, thirsty, and hungry. They did not want the medical team to leave without seeing every single one of them. The wounds were infected, and Dr. Berry and Dr. Seide spent more than 3 hours tending to patient’s wounds.
Unfortunately, the medical team could not treat everyone as they needed to continue onto La Hatte to see other patients. Dr. Van Dine shared, “They did not want us to go. I was so emotionally affected that I could not see every single one of them and I started to cry. There are no words to describe how I felt.” The team went back to their base in Le Cayes and saw another 50 patients from the area. Friday morning, a woman pleaded for help for her 7-year-old daughter when she heard that a team of doctors were working in the area. She came looking for help because her daughter couldn’t walk. She cried when anyone touched her left leg. Dr. Berry paid to have an X-ray, which came back showing her hip was broken. The doctor sent her to see an orthopedist and the team is trying to get her to Port au Prince to receive proper care so she can walk again.
The doctors left Le Cayes Saturday morning to go back home to Pignon. In all, the medical team served roughly 380 people. They hope to return in September to follow up with patients and provide more help.
The people they saw were completely devastated and not only needed medical help, but emotional help. Dr. Van Dine expressed, “I know together we can with a good organization, transparency and integrity help those people. We can help Haiti move forward. We can’t [undo all the damage that has occurred from] this tragedy, but we sure can help them find their smile again. Haiti pap Peri gen Espwa (Haiti won’t perish, there is hope)”
The medical team that went down to care for 380 patients was able to assist thanks to the support of Haiti Outreach, which purchased the plane tickets, food, and medical supplies for the team. They also received donations from Haiti Home of Hope, and Project Hope who sent materials, medications, and sent Dr. Berry Joseph to be part of the team.
The patients treated and the medical team are deeply grateful to all who donated materials and financial support – without which aid would not be possible.