Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flying Nun Escort

(Jorge with the Chinese Ambassador and his team, delivering Heart to Heart's ready relief boxes)

Whew! What a week this has been. I’m finally getting the chance to sit down and slow down for a few minutes… oh what precious minutes these are!

Disaster relief is not a new experience for me. When the May 3rd tornados ravaged the state of Oklahoma in ’99, I had the opportunity to assist in clean-up efforts with Heart to Heart. During nursing school, I worked with an amazing team of nurses in a trauma ICU, which subsequently led me to an interest in taking care of trauma victims post-disaster. Through the American Red Cross, I took classes and became certified in disaster preparedness and relief. Shortly after college, I moved to China and worked with Heart to Heart in their medical programs office, working to implement a disaster relief plan for the province of Sichuan. While living in Asia, the tsunami destroyed village after village in desperately poor countries of the South Pacific and Asia. Heart to Heart deployed me to Sri Lanka and Indonesia immediately after the tsunami hit, an event which essentially began my true love for disaster response work. After Hurricane Ike wiped out the Bolivar Peninsula and other coastal areas of southeast Texas, I also responded with Heart to Heart. And here I am today, once again going full speed to respond to those affected by the destructive earthquake that hit Haiti.

Though I’m a Registered Nurse, and trained to clinically respond to trauma victims, I prefer to manage the operations part rather than perform hands-on patient care. I’m really not quite sure why this is, especially since I love clinical work. Nevertheless, disaster response seems to be my sweet spot, so I think I’ll keep doing it! As a caveat, I should mention that I am not employed by Heart to Heart and only work with them on a volunteer basis. This actually works out well because I get to enjoy what I do without being in the complex web of political hub-bub that generally exists in organizations.

Ok, now that you’re bored, let’s get on to the meat of the situation. Our wonderful team, composed mainly of docs and nurses, left for Port au Prince this afternoon. I find it quite difficult to update frequently, since our plans are guaranteed to change multiple times each day. But I can now safely say that the team has left, made it to the border, and are being escorted into Haiti by a convoy of nuns. Take that! You think it’s funny? I’ll tell you that the only “safe” place to be in PAP right now is at the Cathedral where the nuns are. I don’t know what it is about them, but their presence clearly demands respect. Our fearless leader, who is en route with the team, said that this is the best transportation ever. I love it!

The situation in Haiti gets worse by the day… and along with the severe lack of resources, violence is becoming more rampant as the hours move on. Heart to Heart is doing everything they can to keep our team safe. I greatly appreciate the organization’s care for safety and can assure you that few others take such great measures to protect their volunteers as ours does. Thanks HHI!

I stayed behind in the DR to receive an airlift of medical supplies that are scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. I’ve got to arrange their transport into Haiti. We have another physician arriving this evening and my husband arriving tomorrow morning. There is much work to be done here! I presume we’ll all head in to Haiti on Tuesday or Wednesday. But remember, things change by the minute!

I had a whole list of things I’ve been mulling over in my mind and heart, but I’m afraid my sleep-deprived brain is devoid of deep thought at the moment. It should be said, though, that I’m starting to experience many of the same emotions I had while doing relief work in Sri Lanka. The devastation to each person’s life in Haiti is so enormous, most of us will never in our lives begin to fathom the deep pain they are encountering. Can you imagine losing your home, your livelihood, and your entire family? Can you? These people have NOTHING! I’m serious, folks. This is out of control. Does thinking about this even evoke a pierce in your heart? Does it?

I’m so sick I often break down crying. I wish every single person in our privileged country could experience disaster relief one time. We would all live differently.

I covet your prayers, and I know our team does too. May our God and Father protect each of us, give us compassion for the sick and needy, and impart wisdom and discernment in our decisions.

Remember, you may go to to make a contribution to this great task.


1 comment:

  1. Jessie, You all are in our prayers! ...I thought you were still in Miami, so, thanks for updating me re your blog. You are right - I have never seen such devastation - the people in PNG are rich in comparison to Haitians, esp now since this disaster. May the Lord guide you all, strengthen you for the task and empower you to minister to everyone He brings you in contact with.