A group of eleven medical professionals left Greenville this afternoon en route to Saint Damien of Molokai Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The group put together by Dr. Greg Murphy, a urologist and general surgeon in Pitt County, includes two general practitioners; two orthopedic specialists; two Ear, Nose and Throat specialists; an anesthesiologist; two nurses and a staff support person. In addition to Dr. Murphy, five members of the team are parishioners at St. Peter Church in Greenville, which is administered by the Passionist Religious Order. They are Dr. Mark Dellasega; Dr. Kurt Voos; Dr. Marcus Albernaz; Mr. Robert Klug, RN; and Mr. Gregg Tocozza. Other members of the team are Dr. Chris Hasty; Dr. Gordon Koltis; Dr. Perrin Jones; Dr. Eric Lindbeck; and Mr. Cliff Hambrook, RN.
Saint Damien Hospital is operated by Passionist Father Rick Frechette, who has worked with the poor and ill in Central America since the early 1980s. Ordained a priest in 1979, working in Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, Fr. Frechette felt he had to do more and got permission to enter medical school. He earned his medical degree in 1998 and returned to Haiti to minister and care for the people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to building the 120 bed hospital which provides long-term care to critically ill children and outpatient services to over 30,000 children and adults a year, he also oversees the management and operations of St. Helene Orphanage, which cares for over 450 children. He also founded the St. Luke Outreach Program which employs over 300 people who help manage and operate 17 street schools, deliver water to the slums and bury the unclaimed dead from the city morgue.
Parishioners at St. Peter Church are familiar with the dedicated work of Fr. Frechette, through his or a staff member’s periodic visit to the Greenville parish, which has helped with financial support to the hospital and orphanage.
Dr. Murphy said when he learned that both facilities sustained extensive damage he knew he had to do something. He said with the grace of God, people began stepping forward, asking if they could help. No stranger to Third World medical missions, Dr. Murphy told the others, “We don’t know what we’ll walk into or if we’ll be able to use all of our areas of expertise. We’ll do what needs to be done, whatever it is from operating on someone to cleaning bed pans to moving rubble.”
He explained that being more than two weeks removed from the earthquake, he expects that there will be a need for amputations, but more likely secondary amputations. He said they are the result of infection due to the first amputation or the fact the wound is not healing properly.
Dr. Perrin Jones, an anesthesiologist, said he expects to find a situation beyond his imagination. He said he is not bringing general anesthetic, but will have to work with regional anesthesia. “I expect we’ll see a lot of traumatic amputations with infected wounds,” he said.
The group is bringing its own tents and sleeping bags. The members are also bringing their own food, so as not to take the little food that is available away from the survivors.
The Passionist Province of St. Paul of the Cross, headquartered in South River, NJ, is providing $25,000 to help with transportation and medical supplies. Dr. Murphy said the local medical community has responded, providing a massive amount of supplies, including medicine and bandages.
Prior to their departure, the eleven men attended a prayer service at St. Peter Church, celebrated by Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, and Reverend Justin Kerber, C.P., Pastor of the parish.
Bishop Burbidge expressed his gratitude to the group for responding to the cries for help being heard from the people of Haiti. “In your response,” he said, “may you be for the people the face of Christ.”
Referring to the Gospel reading of the prayer service (Matthew 25:31-40), he said, “We hear the Lord telling us, whatever you do for the least of My brothers and sisters, you do for Me. As you go forth today,” he continued, “you do so knowing Jesus is the one leading you. You go forth with the love, affection and the prayers of families and friends and with the Lord’s promise that He will use us in incredible ways to work miracles and to be instruments of His healing and compassionate love.”
Acknowledging the students who were present for the prayer and commissioning service, the Bishop told them that in years to come they will remember this day. He said, “On this day, you are taught in a very concrete way a lesson of hope; We are members of God’s family and when we hear of someone in need, crying out ‘We need help!’ our duty is to respond to the invitation of Jesus. And when we do, God is glorified.”
Turning back to the medical missionaries, Bishop Burbidge concluded, “Thank you for teaching these students a lesson I pray they will never forget.”
The group departed the Greenville airport mid-afternoon and was spending the night at the Passionist Retreat House in Florida. They will depart for Haiti tomorrow, January 29, on a plane provided by Hendricks Motor Sports Racing Team, which is carrying personnel and supplies in and out of Haiti several times a day.
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Dr. Greg Murphy, parishioner at St. Peter Church in Greenville, discusses medical mission trip to Haiti being undertaken by group of 11 medical personnel. (Windows Media Audio)
Above: Ten of the eleven members of the medical mission team from Greenville before prayer service at St. Peter Catholic Church in Greenville.
Below: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Fr. Justin Kerber, CP, bestowing blessing on medical missioners prior to their departure to Haiti.