Babak Samimi in Haiti

The earthquake in Haiti has made me realize why I got into this profession in the first place. Since this traumatic event took place, I have not been able to stop thinking about how I can help out and give back to those in need. After numerous attempts to reach out to the many organizations that are providing aid to Haiti, I was finally fortunate enough to encounter a group who was willing to take a leap of faith.

I first found out about a pediatrician from New Jersey who was trying to get a group of physicians together to provide aid to Haiti. It was four days before our trip when I first spoke to her, and she informed me that this trip was planned for the following week and that we needed lots of medical supplies as well as our patience and dedication to make this trip as effective as possible. Within one to two days our group nearly doubled from six to fourteen members. It was all finally coming together, and we were all excited but nervous at the same time of the difficult challenges we would face.

Our goals for this trip are to serve the medical and humanitarian needs of the Haitian people. Also, training locals to continue administering antibiotics and wound care procedures, and assessing short and long-term needs for the return of additional aid in one month. Our group may split up to accommodate the needs of the people as it emerges. Some of us will be working at the General Hospital. However, our goal is to set up a field clinic near Anis Zunuzi school/orphanage ( where many homeless and orphaned, wounded children are stationed. This school is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Also, our group organizer will reach out to coordinate and assess the daily needs of the people and work with other aid organizations to identify these needs. We know that circumstances will be hard, and communication will be poor once in Haiti, but we will do our very best. Hopefully, through all of our combined efforts, we will be able to make a difference to at least hundreds or thousands of our fellow human beings in Haiti, and hopefully serve as an inspiration to others to help more.

In the few days prior to my travel, I was able to gather large quantities of medical supplies and medications, which I packed in two large suitcases. When we thought that things couldn’t get better for us, we received a generous donation from the Mona Foundation, who has joined hands with thousands of other organizations and individuals to respond to the needs of the people of Haiti in this time of need.

Further, a friend of one of the doctors also generously provided her assistance by just traveling to the Dominican Republic and accompanying us to Haiti to help us take more supplies.

Below are some thoughts prior to my arrival in Haiti, and I will continue to update and share the journey as I am able:

MONDAY 01/25/2010

It is early Monday morning, and I am leaving Los Angeles with two connecting flights to the Dominican Republic. Knowing that the airport in Haiti was closed down, we all had to take a flight to the Dominican Republic and then drive six hours to get to the border of Haiti.

After a full day of traveling, it is now 11:00 pm, and we have all arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and a gentleman who works for the United Nations had invited us to stay at his home for the few hours that we had before our drive to Haiti. Most of us are meeting each other for the first time, after having just a couple of email exchanges, if any, leading to our trip.

TUESDAY 01/26/2010

It is 3:00 am, and our bus has arrived. There are 14 of us including large quantities of medical supplies, and we are leaving for Jimani at the Haitian border. Our aim is to reach the border and join the United Nation’s convoy to cross the border and reach Port-au-Prince safely.

We arrived at the border at 7:00 am, and we have already seen some of the destruction of the city and the devastation in the eyes of the Haitian people.

2:00 pm: I am here in Haiti, and there is a lot of need, with lots of people laying all over the streets and bandaged up. There is basically a turf war between medical teams to see who will take care of whom. It is absolute chaos and disorganization. We went to the community hospital about 10 miles away from Port-au-Prince, then we headed toward the Anis Zunuzi school/orphanage to set up a clinic. It looks like we will be juggling multiple locations.

9:00 pm:
It has been a very long day for us, and we are setting up camp to go to sleep so that we can have an early start tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY 01/27/2010

The people of Haiti have been very friendly and welcoming.

When we first arrived at the orphanage it was amazing how 50 or more children ran to us and held our arms. Maybe 6 kids per person, and they walked with us for many blocks until we reached the school. They were so sweet and loving, but also hungry and in desperate need.

Our team saw about 90 people today. Many of whom were orphans. I took care of a kid who lost his whole family and barely made it out of the house. A cement wall fell on him, and he had an undiagnosed pelvic fracture until I saw him. There are so many unique stories. Haven’t done much surgery yet as the need in this village is not dire. Things in the city are chaotic and disorganized, but we will keep trying until we find an ideal place for ortho.

THURSDAY 01/28/2010

Today we are working at a hospital on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. I have already done some surgeries. Fortunately, we have some anesthesia, but it’s difficult to come by. X-rays are very hard to get. However, there are no c-arms anywhere. No CT-scan supplies. We also have a steady clinic daily now, but they are mostly kids for primary care. I feel really great about being here.

FRIDAY 01/29/2010

I operated on a 30-year-old lady from a small village who had a femur fracture untreated since the earthquake. Poor lady lost her whole family and was living on the streets homeless with nobody to help her. We arranged for her to get to the hospital, and I was able to operate on her just now. However, I worry about how she she will survive from here on… No family left, far away from home, can’t walk, no money, not even any belongings. It is truly heartbreaking. This is just one of the many sad stories, but I just do what I can and try to help as many people as I can.

SATURDAY 01/30/2010

6:00 am: Today we will travel to the epicenter of the quake and go to a new hospital that supposedly has a huge need.

3:00 pm: Today was a total cluster but what can I do. Trying my best.

11:00 pm: We had a very nice and emotional last night here. A couple adopted one of the cutest kids here, and we are all trying to help them. It seems we really made a difference and an impression here that will hopefully last. In many ways it was more for me than the Haitian people.