Human Factor, Faith, Miracle, And A New Reach

January 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Inspiring People

Darlene Bertil was trapped under concrete for five days in Haiti’s earthquake. She lost both of her hands but not her spirit.

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Peter Gabriel Sings “Heroes” to Raise Money for Haiti

July 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Video

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A Light In The Midst Of Loss

April 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Inspiring People

Catherine Ledner
Aiding Haitian Earthquake Victims

Carol Ritter
Age: 53
Hometown: Ruxson, Maryland
Married with three children

By Stephanie Booth for Real Simple (www.realsimple.com)

On January 12, 2010, Carol was sitting in a board meeting at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center when she received a text from her husband, Tom: “7.5 quake in Haiti really bad no contact CNN cant even get in.”

Carol was stunned. Since 2003 she had served on seven medical-aid missions to Haiti through the International Medical Alliance of Tennessee (IMA) and Friends of Haiti (FOH). For the rest of the meeting, Carol, who is the mother of three children, ages 23, 20, and 15, hunched over her phone, trying to reach friends in Haiti. “It was very scary,” she says. “Everything felt so uncertain.”

Forty-eight hours later, Carol learned IMA had received a plea for help from a Haitian doctor, and just days later she and Tom, a dentist, along with six other IMA team members, set up seven makeshift operating rooms in a clinic in Jimani, a town about 30 miles from Port-au-Prince.

Working 12-hour shifts, Carol performed about 900 surgeries over the next nine days and treated countless other victims, many with crushed limbs. “We went well beyond our comfort zones,” she says. “I’m a gynecologist, but I was surgically removing dead tissue from limbs to avoid the need for amputation.”

Carol also worked as a nurse, putting in IVs and offering comfort when she could. “Performing surgery is one thing, but taking care of the patients is almost harder,” she says. “You look into their eyes and see their fear.” Carol says she will never forget sitting with one woman as her husband took his last breath. “Her wails were just chilling,” she says. Another case devastated her as well―that of a pregnant woman who had lost her baby and was paralyzed from the waist down by the time she arrived at the clinic. No translator was on hand (most Haitians speak Creole) as the woman awaited transport to the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship for intensive medical care, but Carol pulled off a silver ring she was wearing and slid it onto the woman’s finger. “I wanted her to know I was thinking of her,” she says.

Fortunately, there were a few bright moments: Carol delivered two healthy babies (one grateful mother named her new daughter Carol), and she succeeded in obtaining a U.S. visa for her friend Nadia Amedee-Louisjean, 37, a Haitian translator for FOH in her last trimester of a high-risk pregnancy. (Shown here, Carol with Nadia and her baby boy, Gaetan; they are temporarily staying with the Ritters.)

When Carol returns to Haiti, she knows the devastation from the earthquake won’t have disappeared. “The Haitians have lost everything,” says Carol. “But I’ll never stop doing what I can to help. I always remember ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”

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Thinking About Haiti

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

We heard about and saw the results of an earthquake. Images of massive destruction, of the landscape and the victims flooded the media. The images and the reality were so shocking that it was greeted with a universal outpouring of sympathy, caring and generosity.

Haiti has long been known as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. It has a unique history. I recommend a trip into Wikipedia land to get a quick review of the turbulent history of this “should be rich” country, which has been occupied and plundered and the victim of internal and external greed and corruption.

Once you absorb some of this horror, perhaps you will wonder, as I do, why the citizenry of the world that has now rushed to try to help the starving, poor, ill-clothed, sick people of Haiti who are victims of this natural disaster, were so oblivious to the documented day-to-day horrors that the Haitians were suffering before the earthquakes.

As you read a compendium of the events in Haitian history, you will recognize things you had heard before. Aristide, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, the US occupation of Haiti, the first only successful slave revolution in history may well resonate with you. And you may ask, as I do, why the world does not unite, as they do after a natural disaster to work to alleviate the suffering?

For me, Darfur comes immediately to mind. Genocides, past and present, are revisited. What’s wrong with us? How can we be so caring and at the same time be so oblivious? How is it that we can send a contribution to the Red Cross, our Church, the Cancer Fund, and not insist on healthcare legislation the guarantees coverage to everyone including people that have lost their job, have no job, or have previous chronic illnesses. Why are we unable to conceive of supporting a tax or a fee which will not affect our standard of living to pay for humanitarian foreign aid or aid that will help some poor country out of the poverty suffered by the Haitians before the disaster?

And, I wonder how long this interest in the people of Haiti will last? Rebuilding a country and alleviating systemic poverty made more horrible by this disaster will take time and continued support. We have many who question our staying power to continue to keep troops and supplies in Afghanistan and Iraq to nation build. Do we have the staying power to continue to care about Haiti?

Caring should not have to be shaken out of us by a 7.0 earthquake.

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Living Life In A Different Way

January 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

Why is it that only in a crisis do we realize the value of life?  Why is it only then we know what is important and we become our best selves?

Reading, watching and talking about Haiti I see and feel the devastation but I also recognize the compassion of strangers coming together in solidarity to help.

I’m no Pollyanna and know there a number of individuals that take advantage of disasters by looting or setting up fake charities to collect money from the well intentioned.  But I’m not talking about those people because they are the minority.  I’m talking about the millions of people that want to help and are helping.

I believe when Barack Obama, Clinton and George Bush stood together at the White House, asking their fellow citizens to join together in benevolence and kindness they meant that.  Committing to assist is a transformational act.

I’m sure many of the politicians, doctors, journalists and others who are now on the ground in Haiti are not thinking about their personal finance, or fame or anything else.  I believe most of them are in high gear to help, and are thankful not to be a victim in this catastrophe.

Now, anyone who has gone through any type of loss knows that life’s value system changes after a tragedy. But unfortunately some of the changes loose steam as life goes on.

At some point we knew what is important; love, health, friendship, laughter, but somehow the struggles of life start to take a toll and we start to forget.

Why can’t we live life remembering that every day counts and that love has to be tended to and cared for?

All of us who don’t live in  poverty, and therefore have food to eat and a bed to sleep in, spend a lot of our time thinking how to climb up the social and economic ladder often at the cost of relationships and simple contentment.

How many hours do we spend working or in front of a computer?  How many hours do we spend with ourselves and others?  When was the last time we asked ourselves what can I do for you today?  Or sat quietly enjoying the weather, a good meal, or good conversation?

We are always in a hurry and multitasking.  We drive and put make up on at the same time.  We dine and check our email.  We shop and talk on the cell phone.

Are we ever quiet so we can check in with ourselves?  How often do we even remember such basic things as taking deep breaths?

The world is moving fast and unless we make a concerted effort to be in touch with ourselves, others and the world, we are just like chickens running around with our heads cut off.

I have a hunch all the people in Haiti when they come back, they will spend time with their families and friends and appreciate them in a renewed way.  They will be inspired by a smile and inclined to simple pleasures.  But I also have a hunch that in time that will lessen and some of the profound feelings they are experiencing now will also be lessened.  So what’s the solution?

I heard of a course that emphasizes living one’s life as if we only had a year to live.  Truly having that thought would really put life in perspective on a daily basis.  Who would want to engage in road rage when we had a limited time to live?  Who would want to be angry at tech support in India when time was limited?

But who would want to spend quality time with their pets, friends, and family?  I think most everyone.

To quote a cliché, life is precious, even with all the difficulties and the unavoidable pain that we all have to go through, but if we slow down for the small gifts we are given on a daily basis life can be also beautiful.

I propose remembering with more frequency what matters and what doesn’t and if we can do that I’m going out on a limb and affirming that life will be more satisfying.

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