Volunteers revisit Haiti, plan return trips
by Kara Lopp
No one will be able to convince Dr. Roy Blank it wasn’t a miracle.
Four-year-old Mario was severely dehydrated and unresponsive. Blank, of Southern Piedmont Primary Care in Monroe, worked feverishly with colleagues to get an IV into the Haitian orphan. Doctors even tried a surgical procedure to access a key vein near the ankle – it didn’t work.
What did work, Blank said, was prayer. Minutes after all human efforts failed, medical workers saw Mario awaken, sit up and begin drinking water. There were six other children, severely dehydrated and vomiting, who soon after turned a crucial corner and in the following days were running and playing. They’ve dubbed them “The Miraculous Seven.”
Doctors don’t know what made the children sick, but they suspect a toxin or food poisoning.
Blank was one of 80 area medical professionals, students, local musicians and others who returned to Les Cayes and a nearby orphanage in Cambry, Haiti, this month. During the two-week mission trip, volunteers provided medical care, music and sports camps for kids. It was the second trip to Haiti for many of the volunteers, who traveled to the Caribbean country about a year ago after the earthquake hit.
Trip organizer George Collins, a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina’s Matthews office, recently spearheaded the creation of local nonprofit Bless Back Worldwide. Blank now serves as Bless Back’s medical director.
The group envisions several trips a year to the orphanage, bringing help and hope. Thanks to local volunteers, each child at the orphanage received a pair of tennis and dress shoes in their size and a bag chuck full of school supplies, hygiene products and toys.
The earthquake did not harm Les Cayes, but thousands of people from hard-hit areas such as Port-au-Prince have fled there following the devastation.
The medical crew performed the first surgery the Cambry clinic had ever seen – hernia repair for 9-year-old Jeff – and volunteers helped deliver a baby boy at the hospital. Averaging about 100 patients a day, volunteers also treated gunshot wounds, skin conditions, broken bones, infections, diabetes and hypertension.
But God got all the credit for the Mario and the Miraculous Seven.
“The only thing we ended up doing for him was praying, and he ended up being healed because of that,” Blank said of Mario.
Collins agreed. “This boy looked dead,” he said. “We didn’t do anything for him but stick him 30 times. The whole time I’m working on him, I’m praying that God would let us get an IV in him. I kept saying ‘God, I want this boy to live.’ I think what God was saying was ‘I hear your prayer, but I’m not going to answer it in the way you think.’
“God made sure we had nothing to do with that boy’s recovery.”
‘Such a difference’
Just like last year’s trip, the volunteers returned with thousands of stories. But perhaps the biggest story is of all, Collins said, is the resolve of the Haitian people.
“People in Haiti understand so many things are a privilege, where here in the United States we see so many things as entitlements. As your sense of entitlement goes up, your gratitude goes down,” he said. “Their gratitude is enough that they’re so grateful for anything you do for them or with them. I think I’m entitled to so much, I stop recognizing that something is a gift.”
That reminder, Collins said, speaks to why he and other volunteers have launched Bless Back and are so eager to give. During the trip, volunteers gave the orphanage’s clinic a cosmetic overhaul, painting and making repairs. In addition to the clothing and supplies, each orphan received a physical exam and now has the beginnings of his or her own medical chart.
“It started off as a relief effort, but now it’s different,” Collins said. “Now, it’s like we can make such a difference there if we invest in it regularly. We want to partner with the professionals there, to work alongside them. We can learn from each other.
“We can’t change all of Haiti, maybe, but we can make a difference there.”
Want to help?
Bless Back Worldwide needs financial donations and volunteers, especially medical personnel, to travel to Haiti in the future. To donate, mail checks to 2102 Lytton Lane, Matthews, NC 28104. For more information or to volunteer, go to the group’s website, www.blessbackworldwide.org.