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Creighton Team Returns from Treating Earthquake Victims

Creighton Team Returns from Treating Earthquake Victims

Their stories ran the gamut – from death and despair to amazing stories of survival and even birth. And ultimately, a Creighton surgical team talked about the faith and the indomitable spirit of the Haiti earthquake survivors representing all walks of life – from dentists to accountants to medical students and others.

The first team of Creighton health care workers to help victims of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake returned to Omaha on Jan. 26.

The following day, they shared their stories and experiences with Omaha news media, hoping to inspire others to donate to the earthquake relief effort – with money, time, supplies and even the adoption of Haitian orphans.

The nine-member surgical team arrived Sunday, Jan. 17, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Jimani, a Dominican Republic border town about 30 miles east of Port-Au-Prince. Team members brought with them much needed medical supplies, including anesthesia, pain killers, antibiotics and disinfectant.

Once in Jimani, they were greeted by what team described as anarchy and chaos. Stacks of coffins. The injured everywhere, some sharing space with the dead. Relentless screaming mixed with the stench of decomposing human flesh. Flies swarming around open bone fractures.

Amputations were being performed without anesthetic and often without the patients’ consent.

Dr. Brian Loggie, Creighton surgeon and team leader, called it “hell.” Fellow surgeon Tommy Lee said patient care was “inhumane,” at least at first.

In the beginning, the Creighton team worked 14-hours days, Loggie estimated, performing as many as 75 amputations daily.

By midweek things started to around. Order began emerging from chaos, and many watching the Creighton group in action gave much of the credit to Loggie and his team of one surgeon, a pediatrician, three nurse anesthetists, a physician’s assistant and two nurses.

Then came Friday, and a setback. An aftershock seemed to destroy the order the Creighton team had worked so hard to create all week. Amputees, the seriously wounded, and others poured into the streets – with or without help – in fear of buildings collapsing.

What happened next amazed the Creighton health care providers. Patients in the street were singing and dancing. Those who couldn’t stand clapped and swayed their arms in the air. They sang, praising God.

Several in the Creighton group joined in the dancing and singing.

On Sunday, the team left Jimani to return to its home base at the Institute for Latin American Concern (ILAC) in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Another team of 12, including Creighton physician Dr. Theresa Townley and 11 nurses from Creighton, Bergan Mercy Medical Center and Midwest Surgical Hospital, had arrived to replace the first group.

Loggie’s team looked exhausted during the Jan. 27 news conference, but they all said they were glad they had gone. There were tears and laughter that could only be understood by those who had made the journey. All of their lives are forever changed – by the experience and the Haitian people themselves. The team talked about the faith, gratitude and stoicism exhibited by the earthquake survivors.

“If I could bottle a little of what they have, I’d be a much better person; life would be easy,” said nurse anesthetist Tim Glidden.

To make financial donations to the University and Institute for Latin American Concern’s Haiti earthquake relief efforts, visit CREIGHTON'S RELIEF EFFORT. To date, Creighton, with the help of the Institute and other community partners such as Alegent Health System, Midwest Surgical Hospital and others, have sent 38 health care professionals to Jimani as well as thousands of pounds of medical supplies.