Emotions run high for Dallas team on Haiti mission

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by MONIKA DIAZ / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti remains a mess, six days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the island nation's capital, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead and another 1.5 million homeless.

Every day, the situation grows more desperate for the survivors.

A handful of the quake victims received welcome help from a team of North Texas doctors who flew in on a two-day mercy mission.

They spent that time making painful life-and-death choices, checking on every patient at an impromptu clinic in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Hospital, handing out blankets and clothing before handing over their duties to a fresh team of doctors and nurses.

Some members of the Dallas group offered their last dose of comfort to the suffering.

For everyone involved, it was difficult to say goodbye.

Gabriella lost her foot; her sister has internal injuries and her brother suffered a broken arm.

All are now orphaned, with no place to go.

"We can walk away from it, but they've got to live through this and through the days," said Fred Steinbach, who came from Chicago to help. "There is nothing for them left to have. The only thing they can do is wander the streets."

For two days, medical crews juggled emergency and operating rooms. They set up a triage center in the courtyard of Sacred Heart Hospital.

Nearly 200 people came for help — children and adults loaded in cars, on mattresses, even trundled in on doors.

Some had injuries so severe, the only option was to amputate.

The Texans wanted to do more, but the lack of basic equipment, oxygen and blood in some cases forced them to surrender.

Bess Rangel, a nurse with Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas, was frustrated because one of her patients lost a supply of life-giving oxygen. "A guy from upstairs ... came down and said we were wasting oxygen on her, so we had to turn her oxygen off," Rangel said.

But many were saved, and Haitians did not forget to offer their heartfelt thanks.

The struggle in Haiti is far from over. That was evident on our trip back to the Port-au-Prince airport as we witnessed devastation on every street corner..

Thousands of quake victims are roaming the streets, still seeking a reliable supply of food and clean water.

Student Lovanice Deciole, speaking in broken English, appealed  for "the American government to help us rebuild our country, okay? To change our situation... because here we need help."

Hundreds of people blocked the gates of the airport, many begging for a way out.

President Obama and other world leaders have promised that Haiti won't be forgotten as they begin to rebuild their nation. The Texans who spent their weekend working in chaotic conditions won't forget, either.

"You've got to help who you can, so it's definitely something I would do again."

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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