In January of this year, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Not in the short term anyway. I was at La Sierra University winter quarter, completing my final pre-reqs for the Medical radiography program here. I did a lot of praying and soul searching. And after a few inquisitive e-mails and some opened doors, I decided to go to Haiti to help out at Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti. I arrived on April 9, not really knowing what I had gotten myself into.
I did lots of things while I was there. I helped pass out food, organize transportation, pick up big groups at the airport, organize our church service, and oriented short term volunteers. But my main job was taking care of central supply.
Being in charge of Central supply proved to be quite a challenge. After our morning meeting I’d spend my days, sorting supplies, seeing what we had and what we needed. It was particularly hard for me since the extent of my medical training at the time came from watching “Srubs” and “House”.
However, the real challenge came when I had to find medical supplies that we desperately need. Because many relief and medical supplies were stuck in the ports we had no real chain of supply. We were forced to rely on our ground connections as well as volunteers flying in with suit cases full of supplies. It was a constant struggle to keep the hospital stocked with simple things such as the proper bandages, right size of needles or IV catheters, sterile OR equipment, and IV fluids.
Like many other medical needs, blood was in short supply and in high demand in Haiti, as I discovered in the case of Johnny Cherry.
Unlike many of the ortho patients, Johnny’s injury was not earthquake related. In early June, he fell off a building, was paralyzed from the waist down, and needed spinal surgery. Dr. Nelson was leaving the hospital in a few days and we didn’t know if the surgeon following him would be comfortable doing the operation, so we needed to do get it done asap. In order to do the surgery we needed a unit of blood. But there was no blood for Johnny.
So I volunteered to go give blood. I went to General Hospital downtown with one of the translators. It was my first time taking a tap-tap (public transportation). It was not the most pleasant experience: really loud, very cramped, and super hot.
I was able to just walk in to the Haitian red cross and donate without too much hassle. The process was similar to donating here, there were fewer questions in the screening exam and there wasn’t a big comfortable chair, just a metal folding chair with a blood bag hanging off the side. But the donation itself went smoothly.
However, they were very slow and reluctant to cross and type the blood. We waited for a few hours, and then, we were told to come back later in the afternoon. After a frustrating wait, we returned to retrieve the blood the following morning.
When I returned to the hospital, cooler with blood in hand, Johnny was in pre-op. He was borderline hysterical. I understood the jist of what he was saying because he was speaking Spanish not creole. He was feeling abandoned, angry, and scared. I would be too.
He calmed down when I came in with the blood, saying this was my blood that I was giving to him. He replied with a simple, “gracias amigo”. In that moment, a calm wash over him that impacted me deeply.
Working in central supply, I didn’t get to directly see the results of the work I did at the hospital because most of it was behind the scenes. But this experience was so personal. Knowing that I gave Johnny the opportunity to have a better life and being able to witness the calming effect was a humbling and mind blowing experience.
So what is there to take away from this? I left my family, friends, and the comforts of home for a few months and gave a pint of my blood for a stranger. Why? Because Jesus left paradise in heaven with His Father to live on earth and gave ALL his blood for me! That’s true love. In response I don’t see how I can do anything but share that love with people around me.