Tuesday morning started out with my cellphone ringing. It’s unusual, since I don’t chat on the phone with many folks here in Haiti. I was in a deep sleep, even though the world outside was already awake and in full swing. That is not unusual, though, as I am unfortunately not a morning person. So like a bear coming out of hibernation, I grabbed my phone to see what craziness must be going on. Was I ever in for a wake-up call.
Brennon was on the other end of that call, and he was speaking to me in his “I’m being calm, so you need to be, too” voice. I was wide awake in less than a second of hearing that voice. It’s never good. He called to let me know that he was on the scene of a terrible accident that had occurred a mile down the road from RHFH, just minutes earlier, involving a tap-tap. A tap-tap is a Haitian taxi, and in this case, it was a pickup truck with built-up sides around the bed in order to hold a ridiculous amount of people. One common factor about tap-taps: they are horribly crowded and nearly always over-capacity. This tap-tap’s brakes had failed – yet another common trait – and in the driver’s best effort to crash gently, it overturned. Over thirty people were riding on this pickup truck, on their way to market in Cazale. Many of the passengers were vendors, hauling bags of rice and other goods to sell.
Brennon’s call was to tell me to get ready, it was bad. Dead bodies. People trapped underneath the truck. The injured would be heading our way to the clinic soon. Get ready! As my adrenaline began to kick in, and hearing the hopelessness in my husband’s voice, I told him I loved him. I always do. No matter what the context of the conversation, it’s important to me for him to know I love him. But especially in those dark, hard times, I want him to feel me with him. Because I am.
Everyone was scurrying around the yard, preparing as best we could for the unknown. I couldn’t even count the times I said to myself, “What should I do?” Knowing a tidal wave was about to hit, the likes of which I have never seen, was very surreal. It was intimidating. As we could hear the motos (motorcycle taxis) pulling up with the first injured to be treated, I grabbed my 17 year old daughter, hugged her tight, and we prayed. The two of us felt so underequipped and useless, but we prayed to just let Jesus be seen through us and RHFH this day. If nothing else, let these people see You, Lord.
Twenty-seven injured people came to RHFH. A few had only minor injuries, many had non-life threatening injuries that were substantial, and some were fighting to stay alive.
Blood. Contorted limbs. Moaning.
The quietness of the unconscious.
A couple of really horrific injuries….the kind that the sight of them will forever be engrained into my memory. “Graphic” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Two traumatized children, banged up and hurting, who feared their grandmother was dying.
Strength unlike any I’ve ever seen. An elderly woman who chose to walk to the ambulance rather than be carried, despite her substantial loss of blood. A man that silently grimaced in pain, lying on the concrete with broken bones, without complaint or demanding help, patiently waiting, grateful for a drink of water.
The crowd gathering outside the gate, filled with anxiety and emotion. Some just wanting to get a peek.
The ambulances, what a miracle! We hoped for two, but five showed up in an incredible response time of just an hour and a half (remember, we are deep in the mountains).
Despite the odds, every injured person that entered the yard at RHFH left here alive. Incredible.
Like a hurricane, the casualties came in. And in a blur, we looked up and it was over.
I managed to find my place to lend a hand throughout that crazy morning. Handing out ice packs, distributing water to patients and staff, wiping up blood and disinfecting, keeping communication rolling, and lots of comforting. Lesley photographed patients, documenting injuries and ambulance loadings, cleaned up used supplies lying in the yard, and assisted staff putting i.v.’s in patients.
The noon hour rolled in. The regular Tuesday Clinic, with 216 scheduled appointments, resumed….like nothing extraordinary ever happened.
The Lord was with us in this yard Tuesday. No doubt. He's always here.... but I tell ya, He was HERE that morning.