Todd Schmidt, RN, arrived in Haiti on January 16, just four days after the earthquake that devastated the capital city of Port au Prince. "The deacon at my church in Garden City was a missionary in Haiti for seven years," said Todd, a nurse at St. Catherine Hospital. "He and I went to Haiti together to check on the condition of our mission facilities."
A missionary who was transporting patients to a hospital in the Dominican Republic gave Todd and his traveling companion a ride into Haiti. "We found there was little damage to the mission facilities, and thankfully they were useable," said Todd. "Some were hospitals and clinics that were well stocked with supplies and had been operating at full capacity since the quake."
At one of the clinics, Todd joined four other nurses and a doctor. "About 50 percent of the people we saw had fractures of the arms, legs or hips," he said. "Most had injuries that had become infected. We cleaned many wounds. The one thing we lacked was narcotic medications, and it was difficult to see people enduring tremendous pain. That's to say nothing of their emotional pain. We could hope to heal their wounds, but we knew we couldn't heal their lives."
On his last day in Haiti, Todd worked at a different facility, creating a system of records that will help authorities locate amputees for the fitting of future prostheses. "I hope that the attitude toward the handicapped in Haiti will change," said Todd. "Before the earthquake, they were shunned."
After a week in Haiti, Todd arrived home with memories both uplifting and heartbreaking. "One patient really made me realize the human cost of this disaster," he said. "We had a five-year-old boy with an infected wound, and we wanted to give him an antibiotic. We asked if his mother was there with him, and he just stared at us. We learned that his mother was not there - in fact, he was newly orphaned. That really stays with me."