I would just like to start off and thank every member of this awesome team for taking a rusty ‘ol paramedic and turning him into a primary care giver. For the past 18 years I’ve been a police officer and volunteer firefighter for the City of Rockford maintaining my medical first responder license. Prior to that I was a Paramedic for about 8 or 9 years. When Tim Ryan offered me the chance to go to Haiti I couldn’t resist. What a whirlwind of activity after getting the ok from, most importantly, my wife and kids and then the City of Rockford who, without any hesitation, said don’t worry about your shifts just go. This would be my first mission trip and traveling outside the U.S. not on a vacation. Needless to say I was extremely nervous.
With a lot of trepidation venturing into the unknown I packed my bags with what I thought I would need, jumped on Amway’s jet Thursday morning (which was way cool) and got into Haiti in 3 1/2 hours. We hit the ground running and were seeing patients after landing and traveling to the Methodist guest house.
Being a Paramedic is all about loading a patient in an ambulance, treating them, and transporting them to the hospital for the advanced care they would need. Thinking that I was going to be doing a lot of splinting and wound care I was delivered a huge shock…I was going to be delivering primary care!!! The doctors, nurses, and support staff patiently guided me through what was needed and what was expected. I was constantly pestering the whole staff with questions. I cannot properly express my gratitude to them for everything they did for me.
Being in Haiti was a life changing event that I will never forget. I have been involved in multiple mass causualty incidents and was stunned by the amount of damage and loss of life that happened within 20 seconds. But inspite of all the carnage, the people of Haiti were happy to be alive and to have people that cared enough to help them in their time of need. This was readily apparent every night when we heard them singing and praising God for bringing them a new day.
I have memories of the trip that I will cherish. Like when an elderly lady I was seeing said, in Creole, thank you and god bless you while smiling and holding my hand. When a motorcycle drove by with a passenger on the back who yelled to our group in the back of the truck “Thank you for coming” in english. When Junior, our interpreter, asked how I was doing after touring downtown Port-Au-Prince. I replied that it was a tough day and that I wasn’t up to talking about it yet. His reply…”always remember tomorrow is new day” all the while with a smile on his face. Listening to all of the days events and having enough medical knowledge to understand about 1/2 of what was being said. Being at the orphanage and after feeding an 18 month old having him fall asleep on my shoulder. The comraderie and making lifelong friends of our entire team, both American and Haitian, that started out as complete strangers to me. There are many more, but I will save those for later.
Other memories will haunt me for some time. Like roosters crowing from 2 a.m. on. Tuna. Stories of flies. Fluconazole. Some of the other memories will take time to process.
It’s early Sunday morning which I’m enjoying with my family and reflecting back on my trip. I find myself constanly thinking of Haiti and the people that are still there suffering. Please do not forget about these wonderful people and their struggles. That’s all I have for now. God Bless.
Derek “Dr. Duke” Haan