The Medical Mission of Friends of Haiti

Medical Committee Chairperson, Dr. Jack Hale, explains the Medical portion of Friends of Haiti -

"Friends of Haiti (FoH), Green Bay, Inc. began sending medical teams to Thomazeau, Haiti in March 2001.  Thomazeau is both a large town of 5,000 as well as an area of 55,000.  It encompasses both a valley, which is hot and humid, and the mountains, which get pleasantly cool at night.  Initially, FoH remained in the town of Thomazeau at St. Anne's Parish, with which it was twinned, by the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas (Nashville, TN).  Now, FoH travels to Thomazeau, and in to several mountain villages (Mahotiere, Noyau, Denigon, Montalais, Grand Boulage, and Mourne Boulage), two times a year.  FoH also has a dental service which has been active since 2008.  In 2010 FoH began taking care of most of the surgical needs of our patients too.

In March 2001 FoH sent 23 people on the initial medical trip.  The volunteers were from the Green Bay, WI area.  Now FoH sends 60 or more people on each medical trip.  These volunteers come from Green Bay, WI, Olympia, WA, Baltimore, MD, Tucson, AZ, and Billings, MT.  A significant group of Haitian-American nurses (through HANA - The Haitian American Nurses Association) and doctors come from the Miami - Ft. Lauderdale area of FL.  The surgical teams are much smaller in size due to space limitations at Double Harvest in Croix des Bouquets, a suburb of Port au Prince.

Double Harvest (DH) is a Baptist organization in Oberlin, OH.  DH started working in Haiti about 28 years ago.  DH began as a school and church (harvest the mind and soul) and a farm (harvest the land), hence the name Double Harvest.  DH also had a small medical clinic to take care of its people and the local Haitians.  The clinic was remodeled about 13 years ago to include 2 full operating rooms, and a minor surgery room.  FoH has partnered with Double Harvest to take care of some of their patients as well as ours.  FoH has also started working with the local officials, doctors, and nurses in Thomazeau in hopes of initiating a constant medical presence in the mountains.  Currently we support a nurse in the mountains at Denigon.  She is there 3 days a week and cares for chronic and minor problems.  For acute problems, she is in contact with the Haitian doctors in Thomazeau.

FoH supports the Haitian economy by buying some supplies and medications in Haiti.  We use 4c's and Propholab pharmacies in Port au Prince as well as a private entrepreneur for many of our needs.  This practice helps to cut down on FoH's shipping from the US, which occurs twice a year.  Shipping one cubic foot costs $8.00.

FoH cares for approximately 6,000 medical patients, 300 dental patients, and 60 surgical patients on each trip.  The dental team also provides fluoride varnish for many of the orphanage and school children where we work.  The patients are tough people often walking hours to be seen.  They are always very appreciative.

The most common medical illnesses that we encounter are infections, dysentery, hypertension, diabetes, malnutrition, reflux, worms, malaria, and general aches and pains.  The dentists pull many rotten teeth, although they have done a few restorations recently.  Common surgical procedures are hysterectomies, hernias, hydroceles, and lumps and bumps.

One of my favorite stories is that of a woman we saw in Montalais, which is the most remote mountain town to which FoH travels.  It is a rugged 9 mile hike from the main road.  The lady came to Montalais because of a large benign tumor hanging from her axilla (armpit).  It weighed 20 to 25 pounds.  She had to tuck it in her dress and strap it to her chest just to be able to walk and function at home.  FoH got her to Double Harvest to be seen by the surgical team.  Our general surgeon excised the mass.  The following morning at 7:30 am the patient was dressed and ready to travel home.  She could not hold her arm at her side due to the pain of the 6 inch incision, but she had a smile from ear to ear.  Her life was going to be better and she hugged us all as she walked out the door.

Fund raising and participation on the board and committees are always needed.  Our overhead is about 3%, so almost all of every donation goes to help the Haitian people.  All the members of FoH are volunteers and they have given countless hours of help, both in the US and Haiti, over the years.  FoH can never thank all those who have helped.  Nevertheless, FoH can always use more help.  If you would like to get involved please contact us.

Since FoH has been going to Thomazeau many of the Haitian people have begun to consider us their doctors and nurses.  Their health is a little better and their desperation a little less.  These are just a few reasons FoH continues to return and work in Haiti."