“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the first moment I received the email just after midnight Thursday morning that planes had been secured and we needed to mobilize equipment and supplies to the Mission of Hope just north of Port-au-Prince, our staff and doctors have been working at break-neck speed. Many of you have been privy to the details of the operation through the media, but I wanted to share more information about Texas Orthopedics’ involvement and the immense opportunity that our physicians have to repair the lives that were spared in the massive earthquake that occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while I talk about Hill Country Bible Church throughout this narrative, I cannot even do them justice. They are an incredible group of people to be able to organize everything from fundraising, to transport, to shipping, to communication and I am proud they allowed us to help in this mission. They made this mission possible.
Last week started with plans to send Dr. Hurt and two suitcases of precious supplies to Haiti with Mercy Works. One phone call from Dr. Smith’s neighbor, a member at Hill Country Bible Church (HCBC), changed all of that. Their church had been contacted by Mission of Hope Haiti earlier in the week to help with phone bank donations after they were featured on NBC Nightly News. One of the members of the church donated the use of two planes and soon a medical mission was underway. Dr. Smith and Dr. Hurt joined church members and other local doctors on a conference call Wednesday night with the MOH medical team to determine the biggest needs and develop a plan of action.
Thursday morning, Dr. Hurt was interviewed by Bob Cole and Bucky Godbolt on KVET for over 10 minutes about the mission. Dr. Hurt and Alicia worked on a priority list of equipment and supplies. We sent out emails to our administrator peers, the Travis County Medical Society and contacted all of the hospitals to initiate a grassroots effort to secure the necessary items. Leslie and I also initiated a series of press releases to update the media. Tom and Yvonne prepared to receive and direct financial donations to HCBC as well as make opportunities available for our staff to donate. Dr. Hurt, Dr. Smith and Dr. Loeb strategized the appropriate personnel to take with only 18 spaces, given the fact that what started out with 7-9 grew quickly to 30 volunteers (doctors, nurses and other medical personnel that wanted to help). Dr. Hurt struggled with the decision .
We put in calls to People’s Pharmacy who take great care in providing our medications for the surgery center to let them know we desperately needed antibiotics and analgesics. Dr. Mukai and Carolyn went to Costco to buy some supplies and speak with the pharmacy about potential donations. Then Jennifer L. and Dr. Mukai drove to Cedar Park Regional Medical Center where they were astounded by the hospital’s generosity. The doors to central supply were opened and Dr. Mukai was told to take anything that would be needed, any amount. We had to make multiple trips to the hospital to gather truckloads of everything and take it to the church.
By Thursday afternoon, we had amassed a large amount of supplies in the space formerly occupied by charts in medical records. We had several staff members start sorting through everything during the day, Allen and Jennifer L. were instrumental. That night, Alicia led a team of volunteers including Stephanie, Cody, Kelley, Sharon Javier, his fiancé, Twyla, Danny, Erin, her mother, Erica, and Tanner to continue sorting the items that we had received thus far, prepare for items that we would receive on Friday and make a “critical needs” list.
Dr. Mukai attended a TCMS scheduled event Thursday night where a spontaneous auction and fundraiser was held to support the fuel costs. She was in contact with me while she was there and I was able to provide to her the names of the medical team that would be traveling with our doctors for them to announce to the attendees.
Friday morning was chaos, making contacts to hospitals for the urgent needs, sending staff all over town to collect from medical offices and our own offices that were listed with TCMS as drop stations. Huge donations came in from Seton, Seton Northwest, Brackenridge, Northwest Surgical Center, North Austin, North Austin Surgical Center, Austin Surgical Hospital, Texas Oncology, I can’t even name them all here. We had until 1:00 to finish sorting everything before a member of Twyla’s church who generously donated his time, truck and mover arrived to help us transport all of the items to the church. Naomi, Stephanie, Tanner and Karl completed the packing at Quarry Lake.
With my Dad by my side, I accompanied our moving truck to HCBC. What we found there more doubled the amount of supplies that we had in our truck. Austin Radiological, Austin Samaritan and Seton had delivered large volumes of supplies directly there. In addition, other church groups, clinics and individuals brought supplies. HCBC Senior leadership, a couple of OR nurse volunteers and many more volunteers had been sorting supplies all morning. The nurses left and scary enough, myself and Dr. Tracy Haas (Dr. Tim Gueramy’s wife) were the only medically-inclined people. I was told to “stay in this room” and direct the sorting since I would know what everything was (ha!), what a challenge for someone who is accustomed to being in a hundred places at once! I was soon joined by Leslie, Naomi, Allen, Tanner and Karl. Dr. Hurt and his wife, Ashley, Tim Marvin, Dr. Gueramy, Dr. Haas and Dr. Heinze, with the administrative help of Leslie, prioritized what would go on the planes. The church had taped on the floor the size of the cargo bins with the height available.
Leslie and I left the church around 7:30pm Friday night. I had a nagging sense that we just didn’t get everything that was critical and was relieved when Dr. Hurt called me after watching them load the boxes on the airplanes. We still had room! Dr. Hurt and Alicia made a list for us to find the next morning.
Robert Knox, his friend Sean, Leslie and I met at the church at 6:30am Saturday morning. We started pulling the items from the critical list and were joined by Dr. Hurt, Dr. Smith, Dr. Gueramy, Dr. Haas, Tim, Craig at 8:00. The doctors packed and repacked until they got exactly what they wanted for those nooks and crannies. I ran to TOSC to meet Robert and Mrs. White to catch a few last urgent supplies. The doctors from Dallas arrived, with some narcotics!
The doctors went to the airport for their 11:00 take-off, only to be delayed by issues with clearance for landing in Haiti, they were grounded. While I know they were all very disappointed, I truly believe that was a gift for them to organize themselves, strategize, get to know one another and try to get some much needed rest. Also, it gave time for Dr. Robert Wills, who will be leading the second team to MOH, time to secure more narcotics for the trip.
Meanwhile, back at the church, Javier, his fiancé Anna, Cody, Melissa, Erica and Elena directed the HCBC volunteers in sorting through the remaining supplies to be packed. HCBC had secured a cargo truck to ship everything to Miami, then meet up with Hope for Haiti and Heart to Heart transport planes who will transport it to MOH for a Thursday arrival. I am thrilled that we were able to send every single item that was donated to our offices by noon Friday to MOH Haiti, despite it not being able to go on the plane with our doctors.
Today, my son Peyton and I had the distinct honor to join Ashley Hurt, AnnaBeth Loeb, Dr.Tracy Haas, church members and other family and friends for the big send-off. Take-off went as planned and let me tell you, what a sight to see those planes lift off!
If I haven’t mentioned your name in here, my deepest apologies, because it is the rest of you who carried the torch and tended to our first priority, our patients. I know that your thoughts were with us and have the utmost confidence that given the opportunity and the time for adequate planning, every single one of our staff members would have jumped in to help.
As if I haven’t been inspired enough by the remarkable physicians in our group over my 17 years tenure with Texas Orthopedics, I have been blessed to be a part of this experience. My heart and mind will be with our doctors as long as they are in Haiti. I pray for their safety, their surgical skills, their leadership, their mental stability, their physical strength and lastly that we were able to ship the most urgent supplies that they need for the daunting task ahead of them.
This is TEAMWORK, This is Texas Orthopedics.
Jennifer Kinman, MHA
Chief Operations Officer