Miracle in the Mountains

NOTE: In 2010 I covered the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti which killed more than 316,000 people. I’m back now for another story about a clinic up in the mountains doing amazing work. Since I was stuck in Port-au-Prince due to the riots and roadblocks … I had a chance to go back to clinic I covered in 2010. So many children… So much hope.

Haiti, February 15, 2019…A travel advisory has been in effect for several days now in Haiti. Protests turned in to riots. Road blocks set on fire with debris. Americans were ordered to leave the U.S. Embassy just before it was attacked earlier this month. It’s a chaotic, tumultuous time for many Haitians.

But high above the dangers of the capital, Port au Prince, medical miracles are happening almost every day.

Dr. Katherine Wolf (L) treats a young patient at Friends for Health in Haiti in the Gastineau region.

Dr. Katherine Wolf (L) treats a young patient at Friends for Health in Haiti in the Gastineau region.

 I just returned from my fourth assignment in Haiti. Each trip and assignment has been uniquely different, it’s purpose, storyline, urgency.  What is consistent is the resilience and determination of the Haitian people, especially those living in small communities like Gatineau.

 The Gatineau villages in Haiti are made up of several communities in the southwestern mountainous region. Here, access to food and clean water is tough.

The few trees that are left in the countryside are chopped down to make charcoal.

While violence rocks the capital on the second anniversary of President Moise taking office, Haitians in Gatineau work hard to get food on the table - and Friends for Health in Haiti, a medical clinic, continues to serve the community.

Led by Dr. Catherine Wolf, the 10 year-old facility sees about 60 patients a day. The work they do is nothing short of a miracle, treating everything from diabetes to acid reflux to farming injuries. One man came in with a stake driven through his hand. (I didn’t ask.)

 Every morning patients sing “How Great Thou Art” … grounded in their faith …just before they are seen by Dr. Wolf, Haitian native Cherlie Severe, RN and the rest of the medical staff. Most patients arrive just before sunrise. Some even stay overnight outside, rain or shine, just to make sure they are first in line in the outdoor waiting room.

 Mr. Numa Andris was the first in line one morning. He’d stayed all night, reading his bible and sleeping on a wood bench. The dignified gentleman spoke to me in French Creole through an interpreter for a fairly lengthy interview. He described his two to three hour walk up and down unpaved rocky roads, dodging the violence that was making its way from Port au Prince across the country. Numa’s 20-year-old son died just a few weeks ago from complications from Type 2 diabetes. There’s nowhere to get adequate treatment for serious illness. If you can make it to the nearest hospital in Jerèmie most patients can’t afford treatment so they typically go home to die.

 Medical miracles happen regularly in Gatineau. But even angels (Friends for Health in Haiti) can’t address every need here.