WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — This weekend marks exactly 10 years since an incredible group of doctors and nurses from North Texas left for Haiti along with local spiritual healers with the goal to bring at least some relief to victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 catastrophic 7.0 earthquake.
People there were desperate for help, and KFDX’s very own Darrell Franklin was fortunate enough to see for himself and report back to Texomans on how the North Texas Medical Mission tried to help as many of those victims as possible in a short period of time.
A decade later, he talked with some of those members of the relief team about this mission they will never forget.
By the time the North Texas Medical Mission arrived on the earthquake-ravaged island in late February 2010, the Haitian government was estimating a death toll of 230,000 people.
Dr. Jerry Myers left a week ahead of the group to try to work out logistics, and there were problems from the beginning.
“The night before we were flying the group in, we didn’t know if the airport was going to open,” Myers said. “I knew we could not come across the border because they would confiscate everything we were bringing in. We kind of bribed our way through the airport”
Several members of the mission team were shocked by the devastation that surrounded them.
“One of the things that first impressed me on that first day was driving through all the ruins and then coming upon what we call shantytowns or tent cities, which literally you could smell before you saw them,” Dr. Robert McBroom said. “We’d pass by. They had a whole line of porta-potties outside the tent cities. Every one of them was flooding over into the gutters.
One of McBroom’s first patients was a child.
“I had to rely on interpreters to try to get at what he was complaining of,” McBroom said. “Mostly it was dehydration and diarrhea. That little kid was drinking out of the gutter.”
McBroom said the little boy was drinking where wild hogs, chickens and livestock were.
“Not to mention their own excreta,” McBroom recalled.
“We were in a situation where there’s still bodies beneath the rubble,” Myers said. “When we went to Port au Prince and when we went through there, there were people just walking around the rubble, knowing that their family’s still in there and even in the area we were at. There were still people in the rubble. They hadn’t gotten out bodies. It was a very difficult situation.”
Another member on the team, Dr. Dan Bolin, said one of his first patients he attended to was a little girl a few days old who he took to a Red Cross tent.
“I’m not a pediatrician, but I saw this little girl,” Bolin said. “Of course, I knew she was gonna die if we didn’t… The baby was 9-days-old and under, probably had a low birth weight, probably was premature, dehydrated, lethargic. That is one of the most, you know, distinct memories I have. I hope that little girl survived.”
Some of the people they spoke with recalled the terrifying moments during the earthquake when the ground was shaking. How the houses fell and how people were under rubble for days on end.
The team would examine or treat up to 600 people a day, and one reason there were such long lines seeking help could have been because Pastor Kile Bateman was part of the team.
“Before I knew it, I had a microphone in my hand, and I got to speak some Creole, get everybody all excited,” Bateman said. “Then they said, ‘tell them why you’re here,’ so we shared that we have a medical team here. I didn’t know exactly how to tell them about the location, but they interpreted that. And that’s how a lot of people heard that there were going to be doctors, nurses, healers that were going to be coming, so they began to spread the word.”
Pastor Patti Bateman said she remembers what he said to children during that time.
“Well, mostly I would just use whatever Creole I have and know,” Bateman said. “Some of that is crazy songs and singing. Jesus loves the little children in Creole and our kids are both adopted from Haiti. We love Haiti. We love people. We love the country. We love the culture.”
From being in the streets to interacting with the residents, Bolin said the impact made during that time will be in his heart and mind forever.
“I got the feeling they don’t laugh a lot there, but they laughed at some of us and some of the things you did,” Bolin said. “I think that was as much of a gift as anything is for them to laugh and show a positive spirit.”
The devastation and medial issues the team witnessed were heartbreaking they said.
“There was a lot of infection, a lot of abscesses, and obviously from injuries that weren’t taken care of from broken bones that were set,” Bolin said. “We had to regroup with those things. But these people have no medical care. I mean, I saw a lady with a blood pressure of 225 over I don’t know what. You know, we saw breast cancer in a 30-year-old, thyroid diseases that I didn’t even see in medical school.”
Lung infection. Pneumonia. Untreated asthma. Sickness from drinking soiled water. These doctors remember it all.
For a week, this team hurt right along with their patients, but what would hurt the most was not knowing if their patients would get care and survive once they left the ravaged island.
“You took a terrible infrastructure and made it worse,” Myers said. “You kind of left realizing that it’s not going to get much better, but you feel like you’ve at least made a mark there.”
The energy and effort put in during that trip continuously play on their desire to serve.
“What matters is that we make the effort,” McBroom said. “If we could give anybody five minutes of comfort with the type of services that we provided that week, then we will have accomplished our mission.”
“This is probably the last time we’re going to be together. This has been an incredible thing,” Bateman said in 2010.
It was indeed an incredible thing, Pastor Kile Bateman said.
“They worked from early, early morning to when the sun went down,” Bateman said. “Hardly any breaks. Maybe a little bit of water or something to eat.”
Though it was tough and heartbreaking, those team members don’t regret a second of it.
“I’ll have to say this was the best day in medicine I’ve ever had,” Dr. Tim McCleland said in 2010.
“This has been an incredible thing,” Bateman said. “The only way you’re going to know what all you’ve done here is probably when you get to heaven and you get to see the impact you made here.”
It was an incredible mission accomplished where a North Texas medical and spiritual mission brought healing to Haiti.
Watch the full 34-minute conversation between Darrell Franklin and the 2010 Haiti mission trip team.