Silverthorne nurse recounts Haitian relief experience
SUMMIT DAILY NEWS
Before she even read the article about her upcoming trip to Haiti with the Jenkins/Penn Haiti Relief Organization (J/P HRO) in the Summit Daily News, Silverthorne resident and registered nurse Lori Davis received an e-mail rescinding her invitation to volunteer. The organization applauded her support, but said the Jan. 6 article violated their media policy. She was scheduled to fly out the next day.
“After panicking a little bit and crying a lot, I sent out about 40 e-mails,” she said. “At 6 o’clock in the morning, my phone was ringing.”
Davis said she received offers from 12 different organizations who would receive her the next day. She decided to go with Haitian Earthquake Relief (HER), a very small, but reputable organization she had heard good things about through acquaintances. She said it was the best thing that could have happened to her.
Davis said HER sends volunteers to sites that don’t usually receive attention. She said most volunteer organizations in Haiti – including J/P HRO – keep volunteers on-site and let patients come to them. Davis said J/P HRO is an incredible organization, but now realizes it wasn’t the right one for her.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Davis said. “HER is my savior.”
Davis was in Haiti for 10 days. In that time she went to a few different areas – including a village in the mountains she had to hike to – and often worked by herself with just one Haitian nurse by her side. She said nurses in Haiti don’t have the level of training American nurses do. Haitians line up early every morning to wait all day for medical attention, and try again the next day if volunteers don’t show up. Davis said at one clinic, she saw 80 people in three days.
Davis dealt with cholera, worms, strep, flu, chicken pox, ear infections, shingles and diabetes. She even performed minor procedures, including aiding in the removal of an extremely painful extra digit from a child’s hand.
Davis said many of the residents live in squalor, and she was forced to cover her nose and mouth more than once. She said 10 percent of Haitians are in possession of 90 percent of the money.
While residents don’t have running water or electricity, many do have cell phones. Davis said they call each other whenever there’s a blanc (white) doctor in town to line up for medical attention.
Davis said despite what the Haitian people have been through, they don’t dwell on bad events.
“What they are is thankful that they are there,” she said. “They’re a very tenacious, proud people.”
Organizations recommend volunteers spend two nights somewhere else to transition before going home. A friend donated frequent flyer miles to Davis so she could stay in Miami. She said it was hard to put her experience in perspective, especially after seeing Miami’s mansions and yachts. The nurse said she sat on the beach with a beer and sobbed.
Davis booked a return trip to Haiti for Feb. 19. She has medicine in “lockdown” awaiting her return, and will volunteer with HER again. Her son Spencer will be going to Cincinnati to visit his grandparents right before she takes off.
Davis said people have asked her why she helps what they consider a “hopeless cause.”
“Not everyone will understand. Now that I’ve done it, I’m compelled to continue,” she said. “Every change starts with baby steps. They deserve it.”
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