Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Many of you know that I was lucky enough to go to Haiti three weeks after the earthquake on a medical mission. I've been a little hesitant to post anything about this trip but Lindy and many friends insist, so here goes: I was actually planning on going during this same time before the earthquake hit with a group called International Aid Serving Kids. When the "event" (this is what the Haitians call it) happened, I didn't think we would be going because the group wasn't exactly organized for disaster relief. We had an awesome native Haitian as a leader and through connections he had in Haiti, we were able to get into the country and set up a clinic at Leogane, a city near the epicenter of the quake. Needless to say, it was a great experience. There is way too many stories to be told on a blog but I thought a few pictures could tell part of the story. First off, the destruction is incredible. Pictures really don't do it justice. It is a country full of rubble and chaos. Miles and miles of fallen buildings, people living in the streets, piles of garbage, tent cities and shanty-towns. When you are standing in the middle of a street and everything around you is destructed, your mind goes numb. Honestly, I don't think my brain can comprehend it.

This was driving through Port au Prince on our way to Leogane. We actually had to fly into the Dominican Republic and rented buses to drive 10 hours into Leogane. Port au Prince is a total cluster. I have no idea how people live there. Sadly, we Americans would point out a neighborhood of shanty homes and suspect that these were new since the earthquake but our guide pointed out that many were not new, just the extremely poor parts of town now experiencing tremendous growth.

This was everywhere. Lines down, piles of rubble and garbage, people living and selling stuff outside of their fallen homes/buisnesses.

Leogane, Haiti. This used to be a large open air market that is now little shacks and makeshift tents as homes. In Leogane, 80-90% of the buildings fell or are condemned. I spoke to hundreds of people while there and only one person was sleeping in their home. Most had set up shacks or tents outside their homes.

We actually set up clinic at and LDS chapel that had not fallen. There were hundreds living on the church property. This is one of the guys who we hired as security. He took us on a little tour and stopped at his house. This is his car and what remains of his house. He was stuck under the rubble for a couple hours but managed to crawl out on his own. There are no standing walls left of his two story house- the building next to his is condemned.

This is nurse Angie and one of the first kids we saw. He was stuck under the rubble for a few hours as well. A block landed on his right thigh/knee and he had a huge laceration. It was actually healing very well and the kid looked great. We were actually quite suprised at the people who came into our clinic-- not nearly as many infections or trauma as we were expecting. A lot of people with the more serious injuries had seen a doctor already.

This little girl had already been seen and nicely casted by another group of doctors shortly after the quake. We were able to replace her cast and give her this walker. She hadn't been able to get around, other than carried, since the cast was placed. This was just one of the little-big things we were able to do while there.

I just like this kid's hair. Despite the destruction after the quake, the people are the bigger story. Almost everybody lost somebody and their home. Despite this, they were remarkably happy and moving on with life. Many expressed hope. They are truly a beautiful people. The lady in orange was my interpreter. We actually had a generator with working fans but my interpreter was worried that the cool air would make her sick so I ended up sweating off a few pounds on the trip. She was awesome and had no appreciation for space-bubbles.

We had a couple dentists in the group who did some amazing work. Dr. Mike Richards was nice enough to let me yank a tooth on this poor guy. I have a new respect for dentists.

This is one of the little guys living on the church property. He loved the balloons we brought. Turns out, he also loved gum and asked me everyday and almost every hour--" Hey, hey..... whitey....gum?"

After clinic all day, we would go for walks around town to say hi to folks and see some of the damage. The kids in Haiti are incredible. They love their picture taken. This picture goes to show that karate is a universal language of awesomeness. Leogane is like a huge campout because everybody is sleeping outside in the street. They play in the street, sell stuff in the street, eat in the street, and really build their new temporary homes in the street. It is surreal.

This little girl is Wendy with her mom and brother. She was my girlfriend on the trip. She too was living on the church grounds with her mom, dad, and siblings. I almost packed her up and brought her back with me. She would find me each night and we flirted a lot.

Wendy playing doctor. She singlehandedly made it hard for me to leave.

Here is a little guy that had a block crush his right thigh during the quake. He actually had it x-rayed shortly afterword and told it wasn't broken. He came to clinic for decreased eating. I saw him limp into clinic so I took a look under his shorts and found this. It was a terribly infected crush injury. We had an orthopaedic surgeon in our group who had set up camp at a hospital a few miles away. We had this kid go over there and have the infection drained. He will probably do okay but will likely always have an infection in his bone that will occassionally flare and then drain through out his thigh for the rest of his life.

This is in Leogane on one of our walks. One day I went on a walk with a few nurses and supplies in one of the tent cities. People slowly filtered in to be seen. Most of them wanted me to look at their small children, all of whom I saw that day were well for the most part. It was encouraging to see the love that many had for their kids. Sadly, we also had some parents bring their kids to us at clinic and ask that we take them back to America with us.

Another cute little family that I saw in clinic. This woman lost her husband in the earthquake. Her main concern was that her daughter wasn't eating well since the quake (a pretty common thing among the kids-- both for lack of food and too much stress). The serious looking fellow is another interpreter. He is a teacher at an English school that no longer exists.
One last picture of the kids living on the church compound. I would try to go out and play with them each night. They were so fun. (See Wendy?)
I have way more pictures and stories but will save them for another time perhaps. It was surely a huge bite of humble pie and I feel very lucky to have gone over there to help, if only a tiny bit. Shortly after getting home I was wrestling Finn on our carpeted floor and couldn't help to think that I was in a different world. Thanks to Lindy for letting me go!


Grand Pooba said...

WOW! What an amazing experience!

Michael and April said...

Wow Jesse. Thanks for the update. I have been wondering how that trip was for you. It looks like it was memorable experience and one you won't likely forget.

swalberg family said...

Wow- what a crazy adventure Jesse! I'm glad you helped the Haitians. (And made it back safe!) Thanks for posting it.

P.S. This post totally made me cry.

Shelley said...

I'm so glad you had the opportunity to go and serve. I know they will be eternally grateful for your service. Thanks for sharing.

Jen and Mark said...

What an awesome thing you did! makes me appreciate things a lot more. I bet they loved you.

Nicole Barnett said...

What an incredible experience, Jesse. I'm glad you shared the pictures. Okay, Wendy IS a beautiful little girl. I can imagine the whole trip was mind-numbing in so many ways. Glad you were able to go and help--what memories you have to share!

G-MA Kris said...

I am so proud of you Jesse. Thanks for sharing your story of Haiti with all of us. I am sure the people of Haiti fell in love with you just as much as you fell in love with them. Thanks to you for your great example of love and service.

Jared and Janelle said...

What a wonderful opportunity. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed this. Post more anytime.

Ivan Makarov said...

Wow man, is all I can say. Glad you shared these and I look forward to more.

And you thought living at Voikovskaya was bad.

Just a thought... said...

Wow Jesse ...you are my hero! The pictures were incredible. I don't think I could be that brave. Thank you so much for opening your heart and doctor skills to these people who have suffered so much. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your amazing experience.

Melissa said...

Dude you're officially THE MAN! You look freakin cool as hell in your scrubs and bandana out karate-ing it up w/the local kids! Good for you man, what an awesome trip. I humbly bow at your awesomeness.....
Later, Jake