Local hands set to help heal Haiti

Critical-care nurse Janet Hedges is taking only a backpack to Haiti, with bandage scissors, hand sanitizer, toiletries, a bedroll and five sets of scrubs.

Thirteen health professionals with a Paso Robles nonprofit, His Healing Hands, are packing light to fly Sunday with the heaviest-possible load of medicines, which they’ll need to save lives during a week in Port-au-Prince.

Nurses, emergency medical technicians and a pharmacist will accompany doctors Michael Lebens of Templeton, Rex Thornhill of Paso Robles and Warren Frankel of Templeton with his daughter, Faith Frankel, a medical resident at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Amid unsanitary conditions and human remains, thousands of Haitians have yet to receive any medical attention for nearly three-week-old crush injuries and open wounds they suffered in the huge earthquake that hit the country.

“A little infection could kill someone in those surroundings,” said Warren Frankel, co-founder of His Healing Hands and a family practitioner.

The nonprofit leads six to eight medical missionary trips each year to remote areas, such as mountains in China and caves in Pakistan, places where people may have never seen a doctor. But instead of testing vision or treating high blood pressure, this trip will involve washing maggots out of wounds, draining abscesses, making splints, treating respiratory problems and basically getting people “out of shock,” according to Frankel. The group will also spend a day providing whatever medical services are needed at an orphanage in Mariane, a community on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

The Campus Crusade for Christ branch of Global Aid Network invited His Healing Hands to provide services in Haiti. The group will sleep on the floor of the Campus Crusade compound in Port-au-Prince—which is still standing and has access to sufficient clean water and food. More than 40 San Luis Obispo County residents volunteered for the trip, but due to limited space on the airplane, this group will only include health professionals.

Pacific Specialty Insurance Co. of Menlo Park donated its corporate Learjet to take the group to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and then Port-au-Prince. From Florida, the jet will attempt once a day to deliver new supplies to Haiti. The donation is valued at approximately $50,000, and Frankel said other expenses may total $40,000. The nonprofit is fully supported by local fundraising.

But getting there is only the beginning of a battle to save lives. Frankel said that every day, “We’ll start at daybreak and end at dusk.”

Nurse Hedges, who has attended previous trips in Peru and Tanzania, spoke calmly about the possibility of helping when there are hundreds suffering in line: “I just focus on the task at hand, the person in front of me. ... When you serve, you come back more blessed than you have been a blessing.”