Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Lorena Weinstock, a Murrieta, California, ER RN who recently began working at Menifee Valley Medical Center.  Originally from Romania, she came to the US when she was 10 years old.  Recently, her travels took her to Haiti with the Haiti Endowment Fund where she worked for ten days at a 25 year old 30 acre compound in the city of Hinche, in the middle of the country, far from where the earthquake hit.  She said she has been praying for a long time about participating in a medical mission and when the earthquake hit she was in between jobs, her parents had just moved in to help with her family and it was a good time for her.

Lorena worked along side an anesthesiologist, an orthopedic surgeon, and 25 others from Calvary Church to help patients recently injured in the earthquake in Port au Prince, as well as working with regular on-going patients from the area.  She said the team treated 2000 people during their stay, and that included amputees, extremity fractures and on-going patients with deformities.  One girl with hydrocephalus who was never treated may come to the US to be treated, and another girl did come to the US for eight months for surgery on her club foot.  A benefit for that girl was that while she was in US she learned English and returned to Haiti with a new foot and a new life as a translator.  One lady who had to have her leg amputated from the knee down fortunately had the benefit of the anesthesiologist’ presence. In this case Lorena had to hold her other leg up because the woman’s blood pressure was too low and they did not have the usual hospital bed with the ability to place patients in the trendelenburg position.   When she awoke she looked down at her stump and said, “Thank you — God Bless You.” 

She said she was struck by the poverty of the country (95% are unemployed) and as a result of the earthquake they lost schools, including medical schools, so people cannot pursue education.  She also noticed the huge gap between the very rich and the very poor, and the lack of facilities that many westerners take for granted.  Most of the people they met had no electricity, and in many areas there was no local dump so garbage just piled up along the city streets.  She said dogs and horses she saw were 2/3 the size of those in the US, and much of the country’s soil is unusable, mostly from de-forestation.  She anticipated there would be trouble with food and water since 700,000 people were displaced from Port au Prince who have no intention of going back.  In Hinch, where she was staying and working, the population of 50,000 had just increased to 170,000.

The Haiti Endowment Fund is providing teams of medical personnel and social workers to provide consistent overlapping support.  When I asked her what the greatest needs are, she said clean water, good food, antibiotics and anti-worm medication.  She said she hopes the government will succeed at creating an effective infrastructure to get the supplies to where they are needed the most.  I asked Lorena how to help.  She said, “If you have a skill, volunteer.  Otherwise, send money.”

In the north part of Haiti, the land was green and lush with good soil and she has an image that she carries with her of  little children, running happily by the river in Hinch, through the land that they love.  Her greatest reward was being able to help, seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the words of thank you, and we love you.

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