Haiti Calls, part two: “Getting bit by the ‘Bug'”

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here

After a tumultuous beginning, the year 2005 held many blessings in store for our family. I was able to extend my maternity leave through the middle of April, keeping Maggie out of daycare for the remainder of that year’s “sick season.” I cooked a lot, and I learned to bake bread – a family favorite to this day. In the spring, Greg took a weekend off and had his wisdom teeth removed and a vasectomy, on the same day!?! Go big or go home, right?? The same weekend I saw and fell in love with what is now our home. We got to close on the house and move in in late June. We were healthy, happy, whole. We were also still very much in that taking nothing for granted and grateful every day place we had entered with our Maggie’s illness and recovery.

On 29 August, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made her third landfall battering the southern coast of Mississippi and the entire city of New Orleans, Louisiana. As the levees came undone and were breached, just unable to hold back Katrina’s storm surge, we watched in horror the events unfold as though actually glued to our television. New Orleans, a city beloved by us both for LOTS of reasons, was decimated, 75% of the city flooded by Katrina’s wrath.


Finally, on Thursday night, children bedded and the news turned back on, I looked at Greg and said, “I think you should go. . .NO. . . I think we BOTH must go. This is our opportunity to give back some of the blessings God has given us.” Greg was skeptical of being able to make it happen, but willing to go. He said if I could get it arranged we both could go. But, he wanted to go in first, to make sure he felt safe letting me go. I set to work Friday morning.

The Red Cross had mandatory, multiple hours long training courses all volunteers (including trained doctors and nurses and EMTs) must take. Not an efficient option for us. I looked in to Remote Area Medical, RAM, an emergency medical and dental response organization based in Knoxville, and gave them a call with our desire to help and our real-time credentials. On Sunday, 4 September, I put my mister and our friend/nurse Julie (same Julie from part 1 of this story and one of my heroes in this life) on a RAM plane headed into Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Their team was in fact based in Baton Rouge, but they got up at 4 or 430 every morning to ride the 1 1/2 to 2 hour trip into New Orleans in the back of an ambulance. This trip usually t 30-45 minutes tops, but the bridge was gone after the storm. They spent every day that week working at the initial triage point, located outside the New Orleans Convention Center. There are miracle stories as well as tragedies to tell, but that is not the point of this post.


Greg came home the next Sunday, and our little family had about 20 minutes together before my team’s plane took off. Molly Marks, our nurse practitioner at Blackmon Pediatrics, joined me on the team. We also flew into Baton Rouge on a RAM plane. We did not get into New Orleans, though, as by then the city had been heavily secured by the military. Instead, we traveled all over lower Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, tending wounds and infections, removing sutures, refilling lost prescriptions, and listening. We did a lot of listening. Our week was more primary care focused and perhaps not as dramatic as Greg and Julie’s week had been, but, oh, the love we got to give. That was every bit as amazing.

After coming home, Greg and I took our time processing the things we experienced. We both knew the time and experience had been incredibly valuable; we were struggling, though, both of us, with getting our thoughts into words. The purity of helping someone without a single thought of recompense? Life changing. Getting to practice medicine the “old-fashioned way,” with nothing available to us beyond the patient’s history and physical exam? frightening to be sure, but also medicine pared down to its purest form. IMG_0643

To the joy of giving and the pleasure of being able to use our medical knowledge in an ancient sort of way, add, then, the fact of why we went? Oh! That is something life changing indeed. When we set out to take “the opportunity to give back some of the blessings God has given us,” we were not prepared for the amazing way the blessings would continue to flow. In fact, we have learned over these last ten years that it is exactly when we give freely, as an outpouring of gratitude for God’s love towards us; NOT selfishly giving in order to get more blessings, but really living the words ” more of Christ and less of me,” it is then we find ourselves blessed beyond measure and filled with a peace beyond understanding and joy with no words.

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