Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Home From Haiti

I met up with my dad, Dr. Fitzgerald, at about 1pm today. I met Dr. Vanek for the first time and thanked him for all that he has done. He is a humble, down-to-earth, and all-around good guy. We drove over to WKYC in Cleveland so that they could be interviewed. Disheveled and unshaven--as you can see from the video here--they literally had just "stepped off the boat" so to speak but were so relieved to be home. You can also read the article by clicking here.

From there, we drove back to Dr. Vanek's home in Mentor and met his wonderful family. I also had the opportunity to meet Theresa Jackson, one of the Cleveland-area nurses with whom they volunteered. I had heard so much about all these people and was so happy to finally get the chance to meet them. Reporters from the News Herald and the Plain Dealer came over to interview them. Click here to read the The Plain Dealer article and click here to read The News Herald article. The mood was very emotional, particularly when Dr. Vanek described watching a piece on CNN of a small girl who died as her family tried to rescue her from the rubble by attempting amputation. This, he described, was the impetus for his trip to Haiti.

I felt privileged to spend the day listening to their stories -- from the miracles to the tragedies -- wide-eyed and attentive. Their tales were full of hope, gratitude, sadness, relief, uncertainty, humility, respect, exhaustion, concern, and joy. But never did they once feel helpless. They knew that as long as they were there, there was something they could do to help. I imagine they even surprised themselves by what they were able to accomplish at times. The two of them--always talking on top of each other or in unison--struck me as brothers or as soldiers who had shared a special bond in war.

I could tell that they all looked out for each other. The closer they worked as a team, they knew, the better they could care for the well-being of everyone around them. Their humility impressed me above all else--always thanking the other or crediting another with some particular success--but it was clear to me that they had saved many lives. They reminded themselves throughout the experience that they were acting as ambassadors of Cleveland, and our city can be proud of the work they did there and the way they carried themselves.

We welcome you home, and we hope others will follow in your footsteps. Vanek and Fitzgerald stressed the need for immediate patient care, and hope other Cleveland doctors, nurses, and hospitals will act directly and with urgency. They expressed thanks to Lake Health, Team Sweden, Lieut. Col. Wilson, everyone at the HCH hospital, everyone with Project Medishare, and everyone back home and around the country (even the world!) who has given of themselves in one way or another.

I would like to thank everyone following my blog. People have been visiting from hundred of cities and more than a dozen countries, including Canada, Sweden, France, Kuwait, South Korea, and England. Please continue to check back for more updates. I also hope to post some words from Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Vanek addressing all you readers, as well as whatever photographs they had a chance to take. If you would like to support the organization that made all their good work possible, please donate here. Your gift well help doctors like them save lives. If you are a doctor, healthcare professional, or institution/organization interested in helping Haiti Relief in a more hands-on way, please contact us here.

Photos from the Plane

Here are some photos of Dr. Fitzgerald, Dr. Vanek, and Dr. Soong on a Gulfstream G5 on its way from Port-au-Prince to Grand Rapids, Michigan.