Friday, January 29, 2010

Aftermath, and learning how to fish

Woodley, a great kid who went back to Israel with the team to get special treatment for a rare heart problem!
The duty free in port au prince.

I can't believe I am finally home.
It took about 2 days and 3 flights, but I am back in a place with running water and washing machines.
The first time I actually cried real tears during the trip is seeing all my new friends board their flight to Israel. I know it sounds odd, but I was so busy and excited during the mission, I didn't have a moment to reflect on the horrors I saw and the heartbreaking stories I heard. I guess saying goodbye was an excuse for all the tears to come out.

ever since I got home everyone keeps asking me "how was it?"and my initial reaction, although not very politically correct, is: "fun"! Of course I don't mean any disrespect, but I was lucky enough to be in a very unique place, one where people come to heal and little miracles happen. In addition, I was in the company of some of the most noble, kindest and talented people I have ever met. From the EMT's to the doctors, from the kitchen staff to the electricians - everyone was so professional and rarely stopped smiling. It really made me proud to be Israeli, and even more than that - restored my faith in humans even if just for a little while.

I believe it will take a few weeks till everything sinks in, and maybe a few nights from now I will wake up in a cold sweat with horrible images in my mind. As for now, i am mostly feeling a mixture of pride, excitement and fatigue and the only thing that woke me up is the cat snoring (true story). In conclusion, it is easy to say this from the comfort of my own home, but I am thrilled to have taken part in this mission and don't regret any moment. Even though my job was to work with the press and not to heal, i feel a huge sense of accomplishment in just being part of the whole experience. In today's world it is a little old fashioned to feel proud of your country and to want so much to belong to a group of individuals who are not serving themselves. In that case, call me the most old fashioned gal in the world!

Two afterthoughts:

in my short time in Haiti, I learned a little about 3rd world countries. The situation in Haiti was terrible before the earthquake, and will probably continue to be terrible when the world will find something else to talk about. The country has a history of shady leadership and dependence on charity, and when you travel around you rarely see farms stores or factories, but you do see tons of lottery booths and western unions. I can only hope that the world will help Haiti not just by giving out food and medicine, but by helping grow their own food and build their own hospitals. We as Israelis did what we do best - we set up quickly and used our advantage as excellent first responders. We could not do this for long, and hopefully larger countries like the US and Canada will help the Haitian people rebuild their society, not back to what it was before the earthquake, but beyond. I hope the world will help the Haitian learn how to fish....

the second thing is something that I figure everyone should be aware of. Every night in Haiti I would go on youtube, click "Israel Haiti" and follow the stories of the reporters who came to visit the hospital. As time went by, these two words brought up horrible and saddening videos, mostly accusing Israel of organ harvesting, trying to steal Haitian children, exploiting Haiti for PR and so on...These where not just coming from your average left wing or right wing psychos, but from respectable papers in Arab countries and Europe. It is beyond me how people can take such a positive situation and put such a disgusting and negative spin on it. Can Israel never win? I can only offer my own personal experiences - the stories of the nurses who slept two hours a night, the paramedics who gave blood to help children they never met, and the surgeons who performed 20 operations a day in a tent with a temperature of 100 degrees. and you know what? If all these hard working people put their lives on the line for PR's sake - so be it. The casualties of this "Zionist PR campaign" were the 1,111 patients treated at our hospital and the 15 babies born.

Will update more from home front :)


Monday, January 25, 2010

closing down..

Hi Everyone,
so it's final - we are leaving on Wednesday. We are slowly starting to pack up and transfer patients from the hospital. Much of the equipment (tents, cleaning supplies, food) is being left here for our local translators who have been doing a great job.
As for us, things just keep getting weirder and weirder. Yesterday, the Columbian doctors gave us a salsa lesson. Today, Sean Penn stopped by (still don't know why...).
I will try to answer some of your questions from twitter:

The mood - like I said people are in teally good spirits, but we are getting tired. I think everyone is excited to go home, that being sad, it will be hard to leave. Doctors and nurses got pretty attached to some patients and saying goodbye is a difficult process.

International cooperation - it is pretty much like a mini UN here. We have Medical staff from Colombia and Canada working here with us and journalists from all over the world popping in.
Medically speaking there is a lot of cooperation with the US military, the Miami University hospital and an Italian hospital (both in Haiti), and of course a steady transferral of patients to the USNS Comfort.

What does Haiti need - it's a bit of a bubble in here, we see many happy stories and a lot of hope. However, this is only a little bandaid on the huge wound this earthquake caused. Many of the patients we help are in need of long term treatment, and the whole country needs a long term plan to rebuild it's infrastructure. We, the Israelis, are excellent first responders and we worked hard since we got here, but now it is time for the world to step in and make sure that these people are not forgotten once the news starts getting old.

Why did I come - I don't know. For those of you who know me, I am a little anxious, I like to be in control and I enjoy showering :) When I saw the images on TV of the Israeli delegation I felt such pride that I knew I wnated to be part of this effort. My job here was to work with the press and indeed I did entertaing reporters most of the time here, but every moment I could I spent at the childrens ward or with the babies. I still can't comprehend the magnitude of this whole operation, but I know it is something that will be with me forever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day who knows in Haiti

Vladimir and Daniel
Hi All,

Sorry I haven't written for a while, it has been crazy here as usual and when I get to bed I pretty much crash. Today I was in the shower (which is basically a plastic thing of water with a tap attached) and I honestly couldn't remember if i arrived to Haiti last Wednesday or the one before. In any case, it seems like months.

The team is tired but still in good spirits. we have started transferring some patients to the USS Comfort hospital but are still admitting new ones every day. I can't even remember if I wrote about this - but yesterday i got to help deliver a baby!! Well, not really deliver, but I saw the whole process (ladies - quite traumatic if u haven't had children yet) and I helped clean the little boy up and wrap him in a blanket. The nurse had to leave the room and as a matter of fact said to me "oh do you mind giving the baby to the mother? and so I did. Amazing. Other than that babies number 14 and 15 were born here today, identical twins by the names of Daniel and Vladimir (I kid you not). Daniel is named after the Israeli owner of the plant we are located in.

Today I went out to town for the first time since I got here. I drove with the search and rescue team to a girls orphanage to evaluate the building and see if we can help install some lights. When they are not doing that S&R are distributing water tanks and portable bathrooms. We also bought tons of candy with us which was much appreciated. I hope that the earthquake will put some of these orphans in Haiti in the spotlight so that they will be adopted. I can't help but think that if all the red tape was cut, they would all be out of here.

The streets are filled with people. Like you may have heard before, some of the buildings are completely crumbled, others look brand new. The people are trying to sell anything they can get their hands on. Most of them sleep on the streets, those who have homes are afraid to go in.

It was an amazing sight, needless to say I was relieved to come back to camp, home sweet home.

No final word yet on when we are leaving. The staff here is tired as I mentioned, but it seems like the more exhausted we get, the funnier we get too. Sense of humor is very important here and luckily we have it, i think some of it rubs off on the patients too. I admire the doctors and nurses so much for all their work here and the fact that they always have a smile on their face. the dynamics between the doctors and the medical staff here is amazing. i don't know if it just being together for so long that serves as an equalizer, or if these are just really unique human beings, but it seems like there is no division of classes here. First name basis of course, jokes, medics freely expressing medical opinions and just good cooperation all around. Even got my ass kicked in backgammon a few times by one of the chief pediatricians (round 2 coming soon).

Ok I am going to visit Vladi and Daniel now!!!
check out the flickr account for all the pictures.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


A team of Medical Clowns just arrived to the hospital. I don't know who they are helping more, the kids or the staff....

5 babies born here yesterday!!!

Here are pics of 4 of them. They are the cutest thing ever.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What a day!

Wow. Today was probably one of the most eventful days here in the camp.
This morning I wandered into the maternity ward. The Dr. asked me if I ever witnessed a birth, I said no, so he told me to stick around, I might have to help. Luckily they handled it pretty well, but I got to help clean the beautiful baby boy and even put the tags on him. The nurse had to leave the room, so she casually called out to me "oh, can you give the baby to the mom?". And that was pretty much the coolest thing EVER.

Not that I even had time to think about it. Shortly after that mike came in, the 4 year old boy who was diagnosed here with Leukemia. We started a huge twitter campaign to find someone to help him, and 2 hours later he was taken away to the airport on his way to Miami university hospital.

After that I went to take a shower, I came back to discover that our search and rescue team had found a live 23 year old man who had been trapped for 11 days. He survived by drinking liquids that he found around him, mostly his own urine. He is currently being treated here and his physical condition is excellent. Here is the incredible video of the rescue

Good news!!!!!!!!

Mike, the adorable 4 year old is on his way to Miami university!!!
He was picked up about an hour ago by a charity called "God's Planet for Haiti". Not sure who set it up, will send more details soon..

Mike with his dad and the awesome doctors Amit and Ram