Like most Haitian-Americans, I heard about the earthquake in Haiti from family, followed by the words, “turn on the news.” For the first 12 hours I watched, listened, and grieved. But I could only do that briefly, because grieving can be done after helping the living. 24 hours later, I reached out to my college network. 48 hours later, I posted on Facebook the call for volunteer nurses or doctors who were willing to fly to Haiti within 72-hours. Within 96 hours, we assembled our first group of medical volunteers. Within 144 hours, we had medical volunteers in Haiti. In six months, we sent seven medical teams to Haiti and arranged for major heart surgery to be done on 3-year-old Catalina at the Ronald McDonald House and 13-year-old Daphne in Haiti, and helped many others, including, Jude Brena.
Jude Brena, 6 months old, was asleep on Jan. 12, 2010 when the roof collapsed. An aunt caring for him was killed in the house and relatives thought Jude was dead, too, buried like tens of thousands of others beneath the rubble caused by the Haiti earthquake. But more than a day later, crying was heard under the concrete. Jude was alive, but had suffered a skull fracture. He was brought to the Link Haiti mobile clinic. We could not provide the care he needed.
Diana Achille, a Link Haiti volunteer and friend, and I embarked on a desperate search for help. The UM Medical tent hospital tried to transfer Jude to the USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship and trauma center. The ship was full.
We tried the federal DMAT, they were blunt: If he’s going to live, he needs to get out of Haiti.
Flights were suspended. Diana and I met Sean Penn, the actor, at a hotel bar in Port-au-Prince, and explained Jude’s situation. The next morning Jude was flown to the USS Comfort where he underwent surgery.
He died about nine months later once he returned home. He caught an infection and died. Well, the cause of death was an infection but in reality it was death by poverty.