January 19 2010 - Medical Team Leaves For Haiti

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Medical Team Leaves For Haiti

Religion Editor

In the predawn hours of Monday morning, 12 people gathered at Mercy Works of Garden Valley for final instructions and prayers. A medical relief team was being sent by Mercy Works to help relieve the horrors of death, destruction and deprivation that are decimating Haiti, before the situation on the island shared by the Dominican Republic spirals further into disaster.

A Tyler emergency room physician and his son, who is an emergency medical technician, were among the team of six being sent with emergency medical supplies to help ease the misery of tens of thousands of Haitian living among the rubble and the dead.

"We don't know what we'll be facing," said Dr. Jack Jorden, an ER doctor at Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler. "As soon as we get there, we'll see what kind of medical treatments are needed. This is an emergency situation we're going into, and we have to be prepared for anything."

Conditions in Haiti are deteriorating according to reports from the Associated Press. The unmet needs of "hundreds of thousands" is creating a strain on the island - and is bound to strain relief efforts, said Debbie Lascelles, executive director of Mercy Works.

Talking to the team of six, set to depart from Dallas on Monday, Mrs. Lascelles cautioned the volunteers to stay committed to each other.

"You guys are the tip of the arrow," she said as the sun rose at Mercy Works offices near Garden Valley. "You're the trailblazers, and it's going to be intense. You're going to get stressed and maybe get on each others nerves, so be sure to maintain your relationships with each other. That's the most important thing."

The prayer time prior to departure was sober, practical and serious.

The team assembled by Mercy Works is made up of veteran relief workers who have faced hardships before. Jorden volunteered in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and has been "on many mission trips" where primitive conditions were par for the course. His 22-year-old son Sam, an emergency medical technician, was accompanying him. It wasn't his first time.

"He's been all over the world with me doing this since he was 5," Jorden said. Sam was able to take time off from his job at Trinity Mother Frances when he found "someone to cover for me" for the weeklong trip.

Both men will send dispatches of their progress in Haiti to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, as conditions allow.

Sharon Ambler, 48, is a registered respiratory therapist who has served in emergency situations in Central America, Africa and Asia.

Despite the potential for hard times, and perhaps danger, an upbeat group left for the van in the chilly morning dew, headed for Dallas International Airport, carrying medicines and supplies with them.

They will meet Terry Snow, the Youth With A Mission national director in Port au Prince. Snow, who received his mission training in Tyler nearly 20 years ago, has worked in Haiti ever since.

A variety of medical supplies are going with the medical team said Mrs. Lascelles.

"We have everything from IV equipment and fluids, antibiotics, sutures and equipment, and cast materials for broken bones. We've spent a lot of money on supplies."

The University of Texas at Tyler Health and Science Center helped provide pharmaceutical supplies at cost, Jorden said, and Trinity Mother Frances Health System, some medical materials.

Supplies to send and volunteers to go are still needed, Mrs. Lascelles said.

"We'll be sending in teams every Monday," she said. "Our medical volunteers typically can take a week from work to come with us. We need doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians for future teams."

Funds are critical to equip the volunteers, she said.

"We also need funds to buy medicines and other supplies. We will be grateful for any volunteers or donations. The situation in Haiti, as everyone knows, is dire."

To donate to Mercy Works, visit the Web at www.mercyworks.org. To volunteer to work on a medical team, call 903-509-5460.