The earthquake struck the poor Island nation of Haiti. The ground shook for four minutes. In this time Cities, towns and villages were reduced to ruble accross the county. Some Cities suffered 90% home destruction with hospitals full of patients, doctors and nurses and schools full of children instantly collapsing killing the majority of the people inside.
Upon the World hearing of the devastation, rescue workers went immediately to the Capital, Port Au Prince. By the next day the US military had taken over the Capitol airport and commenced bringing in troops, aid and medical personel. A humanitarian disaster was however in the making. Military operations required bringing in troops for ground security, bringing in equipement, tents etc in support of these troops. In a short time the small Capital airport was log jammed with military aircraft making it extremely difficult for search and rescue personel to fly into the Country. At a time when hours meant the diffference between life and death for those still alive traped in the ruble search and rescue and even medical teams were being turned away from the airport. To compound matters even worse, the larrgest developed City closest to Haiti, Miami, the Cities Mayor and Fire & Rescue Chief announced that they would NOT be sending people to aid in the urgent search and rescue. Eveyone assumed that the military had everything under control. Well yes they had the airbourne resources to airlift equipment, supplies and troops. But they seriously lacked fast response trained search and rescue personel. This is not what the army is expert in. So day one, day two and the ensuing week saw armed troops en mass protecting buildings in the national Capital and securing places like the airport. While at the same time the poor people of Haiti buried alive were dying from the lack of a proper and speedy search and rescue response.
Sitting in my home in Miami and having established a medical emergency response organization to aid with volunteers in times of natural disasters such as Huricanes that are common in Florida, on the night after the quake I became alarmed on hearing the difficulty search and reecue volunteers were having in flying into Haiti.
I went on to the computer and within an hour had researched every airfield in Haiti. From country gravel stips to larger air fields. I located an airfield in the coastel Haitian City of Jakmel that was sealed, had a runway length of 1,500 feet and situated in a part of the country that I had learned was seriously affected by the earthquake and had no medical or rescue teams on the ground. The next few hours in the middle of the night i mobilized volunteers, organized a light plane to fly my to the Jakmel airfield in Haiti and made contact wth Orphange and mission organisations with operations in Haiti that could provide me with on the ground intelligence.
Flying low over the Jakmel air field we saw that we could land. In minutes I was unloading baby formulae for one of the orphanges that I had brought with me along with communication equipement. I sent out the message that this airfield was now open for relief flights for search and rescue and medical personel. What happened the next day was nothing short of a miracle. By the end of the week this little airfield became the single largest operation for private relief flights into the Country. Over 200 planes, more than 1,000 medical personel and teams of search and rescue entered Haiti at this little field and were organized and dispatched to Hospitals we re-opened and to tents in fields in ruined cities that became field hospitals serving 100's of thousands of injured. Orphanage and mission ccmpounds were turned into mini hospitals many of which served thousands of severely injured victims. Some of the worst injuries you could imagine were being treated in open fields on a simple stretcher. Operations to amputate limbs in order to save lives were performed often times even without anaesthetic. The shortage of medicine and bandages was constantly critical and never ending. But the army of Doctors and Nurses dispatched from the airport of Jakmel within days of the earthquake, ended up covering 2/3rds of the most devastated areas of the country. All volunteers. No Government agency. Not even the Red Cross to be found in Cities outside of the national capital. This voluneer relief effort impacted the worst hit areas. Cities that were closer to the earthquake epi center were flatened and left in ruins and far worse off then where the international aid attention was focused, Port-Au-Prince. One city that I organized food relief for its 30,000 survivors had no water, no food and the wounded and injured lying in the streets untreated. By day three, not one Goverment agency, not one international aid worker, not one Red Cross member had set foot in this City. With our volunteers we were able to bring in Doctors and Nurses, open up clinics and I was able to organize a European aid organization to bring in food to feed the Cities survivors.
Two weeks of hell and I saw in amongst the horror far wose then a war zone, bravery, courage and faith to continue living. I saw human compasion by strangers who flew from comfortable cities in America volunteering to help save livess. The incredible giving of aircraft owners who gave their planes, pilots and fuel free of charge to bring in the urgently needed doctors, nurses and rescue workers. I saw a piece of heaven in the hellish conditions that was Haiti immediately following the earthquake.
About to board the private plane with my search and rescue medical kit. I was accompanied by a 2nd year medical student who volunteered to fly with me to the airfield in Haiti. I had learned that an orphanage in Haiti was in dire need of baby formulae so early that morning I went to Costco and bought all the baby formulae I could. I had no idea what to expect. Even if we could land on the airfield and that it wasnt affected by the earthquake.
A school destroyed. Children and teachers buried in the ruble.
A patient in a field hospital I established, being preped for a foot amputation using an epidural. This stretcher on blocks was the operating table. The tent was the operating room. Lighting came from a portable generator we had flown in.
The face of a child in shock. He had just lost his mother and whole family