January 12 – Devastating 7.0 earthquake shakes the poorest country in the western Hemisphere – Haiti
January 13 –As I started my morning in prayer, I realized that we could not stand back and watch but that as medical missionaries in the US and being so close to Haiti something would have to be done. But what and How? I received an emergency phone call from Dr. Maria Mallarino at about 11am who had organized with the assistance of her family in the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Republic government access into Haiti with a first response team consisting of 11 people made up of her team from Florida Cancer Specialists. Dr. Mallarino asked for assistance from Hearts Afire Inc. Hearts Afire is a Christian non-profit international organization providing medical and spiritual support to 8 countries through the support of short term missions. However when Haiti earthquake occurred with much prayer the founders and board decided unanimously to quickly upscale Hearts Afire into a first response organization. The Hearts Afire Haiti Relief project was formed, separate accounts and project budget were setup and emergency volunteer committee was started. Believe it or not all of this was done within 24-96 hours.
January 15 – The first response team leaves with leadership through Dr. Maria Mallarino. All team members lay down their time, their money, and their families to run to the aid of these helpless victims of the earthquake. They arrive through the Dominican Republic and with the aid of their family and the Dominican they go on into Haiti. They arrived in Port-au-Prince and worked in conjunction with various organizations including the Dominican red cross, orphanages, and the Haitian physicians. They worked night and day trying to save lives, providing medical and nursing support to the wounded and to the surgeons. Initial assessment in Port-au-Prince was completed. Emergency call for Orthopedic surgeons and general surgeons made.
January 18 – Dr. Maria Mallarino and the first response team arrives back in the US. Second team deployed after initial assessment. This team was comprised of four including Dr. Joseph Pecoraro (team leader, co-founder and chairman of Hearts Afire and general/vascular surgeon), Dr. David Sugar (orthopedic surgeon), Dr. Leonard Bernard (anesthesiologist), Dr. Thomas Nutter (anesthesiologist). They flew on commercial flights to the Dominican Republic and with our Dominican missionaries from Corazon Del Siervo with whom we have long term relationships, a bus and driver were rented and they made the long drive into Haiti. Initial stop was made at Port-au-prince and since various organizations were already found on the ground, a stop was made at the only main Christian logistics center setup at the Quisqueya school compound. The team stayed overnight and worked in Port-au-Prince but after the logistics center felt that Petit Goave was the place to go then the team left that morning and arrived to the Wesleyan compound. A rapid assessment was made of the Notre Dame hospital OR’s and after going through the buildings with a swiss structural engineer, it was felt that the OR where they were to work was safe. They started quickly triaging patients and procedures were started. They had brought surgical supplies and medications obtained from Manatee memorial and Blake hospitals and their private offices and proceeded to do 28 procedures over the next three days. They visited the surrounding areas and better understood the extent of the trajedy of these people. It was amazing how kind and thankful the people of Haiti were despite all the circimstances. They returned January 23 back to the US.
January 22 – Dr. Maria Mallarino departs with her team on a donated plane into Port-au-prince. A team of Dr. Mark Wittmann (anesthesiologist), Dr. Donald Slevin (orthopedic surgeon), Dr. Richard Valdesusso ( hand plastic surgery) accompanied her. Lots of great work is done and they return January 25.
Vilma Vega MD, Co-founder/President Hearts Afire
All team members lay down their time, their money, and their families to run to the aid of these helpless victims of the earthquake…They worked night and day trying to save lives, providing medical and nursing support to the wounded and to the surgeons.