CLARION - From Jan. 17 through Jan. 24, a team of 14 Wright County medical professionals packed up their stethoscopes and traveled to Haiti.
The traveling team included three doctors: Mike Whitters, Tim Nagel and Monica Siemens; three nurses: Monica Staudt, Kasie Christensen, Sarah Ledvina; radiologist Pam Whitters; respiratory therapist Monica Christensen; pharmacist Mickey Cooper; occupational therapist Katie Legvold; hospital administrator Leigh Faaborg; wellness coordinator Paul Hinz; "go-to" guy Ron Siemens; and translator Cinera Dorzeus.
The team worked in Anse Rouge, a community of 40,000 residents ninety miles from the Hatian capital of Port-au-Prince.
In the beginning
According to Pam Whitters, the relationship between the Holy Family Cluster, three Catholic churches in Eagle Grove, Clarion and Belmond, and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Anse Rouge began in 2003.
"We worked with an international program which pairs Catholic churches like ours with one like our 'twin' in Haiti," she said.
In 2005, five Wright County residents in the Catholic cluster traveled to Haiti.
"Our initial visit was to find the needs of the church and community in Haiti," Pam Whitters said. "We wanted to know how we could help."
She said the priest at the Anse Rouge parish had a dream: a school for the elementary children.
The travelers began to recruit financial support for building of the school. Some parishioners support school students, as $120 a year covers school supplies, uniforms and a meal a day. Several Wright County teachers also support Haitian teachers.
According to Nagel, the team conducted six different medical clinics on three different days.
"The three of us providers would have stations, doing blood pressure checks and checking other vitals," he said.
Malnourishment and parasites were the most common things they diagnosed, Nagel said.
"We saw about 600 people medically" said Nagel. "Another 400 people, we were able to give vitamins and worm medicines."
Siemens recalls treating a tiny, wrinkled lady,
"She, and her family, claimed she was born in April 1890," she said. "That would make her 122. Maybe, who knows."
Team members carried some of their medicines and medical supplies in their travel suitcases.
"We always ship some equipment, given to us by Wright Medical Center, which is being replaced locally with newer equipment," said Staudt. Some medicines are left behind to be administered by local medical personnel, she said.
The team took 1,200 pairs of eyeglasses with them. One of the stations found people trying on glasses and being given a pair which best fit their sight needs.
"It was really important for us to treat each person as an individual," said Pam Whitters. "We greeted everyone who came in to see us. Some of the people would walk for hours to get to our clinic. We wanted them to know that we cared about them, even more than on a medical level."
Mike Whitters said one lady with AIDS was brought to them in a wheel barrow.
"She was so sick," he said. "They know we are Americans, but we can't always help. We did have the opportunity to pray over her, asking God for His care and her peace."
He said they also saw a 14-year-old girl who has had a hole in her belly all of her life. He believes that surgery could be successfully performed in America and is taking steps to see if surgery is possible and if they can get her a passport to the midwest.
The paired relationship between Wright County residents and Haitian citizens will continue. Monica Staudt said,
"Since the school is only used a portion of the day, we already have delivered a number of treadle sewing machines," she said. "They want to teach people to sew. Maybe making school bags and uniforms. Also the possibility of turning seamstresses into the ability make some money for themselves."
The elementary school also has the ability to be build up, a second floor; maybe to be used for educations of the older students.
Financial support will continue from the Eagle Grove, Clarion, and Belmond parishioners.
Teams will continue to travel to Haiti. Some of the travelers have gone all three times; others it was their first trip.
"It was a beautiful country, filled with beautiful people," said Kasie Christensen. "It was a life-changing experience and I look forward to returning in the future. The people of Haiti have very little, yet their hearts overflow with so much faith, love and happiness."
Contact Karen Weld at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org