The bus pulled into the Mission tc Haiti compound. “We felt like the engine was sputtering. Then the bus started rocking side-to-side so hard. . .you couldn’t get off, it was so hard that if you stood up you’d fall right over. . . Then we got off the bus and the ground was still going back and forth – it was really weird,” Molly Stroud, 32, of Farmington, explains.
Stroud had been in Haiti less than a day when the earthquake hit. This was her second time in the country, doing a short-term mission with Mission to Haiti, an organization that has been in Haiti for thirty years. She was excited to be back, she was not only going to be able to help the people, but she was finally going to be able to meet the girl and boy that she sponsor through Mission to Haiti.
Following the earthquake, the missionaries got off of the bus and ran to check on the constructions workers that are helping the Mission build the actual medical building. As they had come in, they had seen the construction workers on the roof of the building and on scaffolding. Remarkably, no one had fallen during the earthquake or had even been injured.
The first thing Stroud heard following the earthquake were screams. The outer wall to the compound had fallen down and so the missionaries were able to climb over the wall, being careful to avoid the razor wire that had been on top and guide people into the camp. A few minutes after the earthquake the missionaries brought a woman with a broken leg into their camp. The woman’s two children were missing. The missionaries went and dug the children from under the rubble of a rock wall. Both of the children were dead and the father had to be sedated he was so distraught.
Jim Mishka, a Fayetteville chiropractor, says of Stroud, “Molly was amazing. She was pulling kids out from under the rubble.”
Even though Mission to Haiti has a medical team, it was not equipped to handle a catastrophe of this magnitude. It is set up as a family practice clinic, treating such things as worms, scabies, UTI’s, etc. The clinic only had one cast kit and four i.v. kits, and that was not enough, since many of the injuries involved broken and mangled bones. Within a short time they were out of bandages, gauze, and all of the basic medical needs that Americans take for granted.
“We’d tear strips of sheets, four or five or six inches, and put them in Ziploc baggies. Then the doctors would put the limb back the way it was suppose to go, and then the construction men at 1-o’clock in the morning are cutting boards, and we’d wrap their leg in the sheet bandage and then we’d put the boards, and then we’d wrap the boards with more sheet bandage and then we’d put duct tape around it. Because that was all we had,”Stroud said.
Mishka explained that they were doing amputations without anesthetic, but that there was also no choice, since the limbs had to come off. There was also limited antibiotics.
One little boy came in with a chest injury and the doctors worked valiantly to save his life. But with limited supplies, a doctor can’t always save someone, even if they are a little boy. They tried to do a tracheotomy, but they didn’t have a large enough needle. However, he had touched the hearts of the missionaries and doctors, and so his death was not without tears. Sadly, this little boy’s family never came to claim him. “We didn’t know his name, so I had to take a picture of his face for the mayor’s office. Since we didn’t want him to be buried with no name, I named him Joshua. He will forever live in my heart,” Stroud said.
Most of the missionaries did not sleep that night. Stroud vowed to stay up as long as the doctors did. She felt as if she didn’t have any right to sleep if the doctor’s were still trying to save lives. “I decided not to go to bed until the doctors went to bed, and they never went to bed. If they were going to be up and helping, then I was going to be up and trying to help them,” Stroud said.
Even though she is not medically trained, she was able to help. “We gave out food, we gave out water to the patients and their families, she stood by while the doctors cleaned debris from the wounds. One of her jobs was to clean the bodies of the dead, especially the children, so that their families could say good-bye.
Finally around 2:00 A.M. it was decided that they could no longer take anymore patients, because they were completely out of supplies. “It was awful, because the outer compound was completely full, which was okay, they weren’t being disorderly, because we had lights and nobody else in the city had lights, because we had our own generators” Stroud said. “They were scared and they would come because we had a big open space, and they didn’t have to worry about a building falling on them, because there were lots of aftershocks.” Patients were laying on a roofing material that the construction workers had been using, because the material was flat and smooth.
Mishka explained that there were 36 aftershocks in the first 24 hours following the earthquake. The United States Geological Survey Web site says that there were 54 aftershocks of 4.5 or higher, with 15 aftershocks being higher than 5.0.
The next day patients either left with their families, or a few lucky ones were able to be transported to a hospital. “There’s not going to be aftercare. I think at least 50 percent of all the injured people will die because of lack of aftercare,” Stroud said. The construction workers built caskets, because five children had died during the night.
After the patients left, the missionaries began trying to find their way home. Tsunami was a real threat and there were no more medical supplies. To stay would be a drain on the resources of Haiti and they would also potentially endanger themselves. The U.S embassy suggested they go to the airport and so on January 14 they waited at the airport all day. “The embassy doesn’t actually have the power to actually do anything, plus the embassy was not able to communicate because there were no phones, so it was like no one knew anything. It was very frustrating.”
The only way anyone was able to communicate was through the internet, using Facebook, IM-ing and e-mail. Following the earthquake, people began posting to Stroud’s Facebook page and asking if she was alright. The first time she posted was on February 12, just hours after the earthquake and she wrote “Hi everyone!! I am alive and unhurt.. PRAISE THE LORD!! Our entire team is safe and well. We are sleeping outside tonight. . . just in case. I appreciate all the prayers, and please keep praying that we will be able to be evacuated soon. We used up all our medical supplies, and cannot see anymore patients. . . even if they are dying.”
That evening they began discussing options, and eventually they began talking about renting a vehicle and driving to the Dominican Republic. They were warned by the embassy that this would not be safe, because the Haitian people were beginning to panic, and it was feared they could be mobbed or robbed and killed.
Mishka explained that he heard through Facebooking with Congressman John Boozman’s office that the border to the Dominican Republic had been closed. But collectively the missionaries decided this would be their best route. However, while they were sleeping, Lt. Colonel Scott Patterson, came and woke them up. There was a C-17 cargo plane that had come in unexpectedly with supplies, and if they could dress quick enough, they could be on it when it returned to the United States. Stroud calls Patterson her hero and has a picture of him on a table in her foyer. Later Stroud found out that Boozman had been actively involved with getting them evacuated. When she returned to the United States, Stroud insisted upon thanking Boozman herself, and was able to speak with him on the telephone.
When they arrived at Ft. Dix they were asked where they wanted to be transported. The Arkansas contingent chose to go to the Philadelphia airport. There, Delbert Allen, Sr., the chairman of Allen Canning Company sent his private jet to pick them up in Philadelphia, at his expense. Stroud described the jet as “sweet!”
Stroud has no regrets about her trip to Haiti. In fact, she is planning on returning again next year. She says “I believe I was put there in Haiti on that day, and I feel honored that God chose me for that. I think it’s going to change my life forever and I’m thankful for it.”