|Mary deployed for the first time with Samaritan’s Purse DART team September 22 through October 11. We thank you for praying. If I could tell you all of the stories of where and how miraculously we saw God moving in the place of crisis, they would be endless. For length’s sake, I’ll follow this email with one that holds more personal stories/reflections. I would highly recommend that one if you are limited on time and are more interested in discovering the non-physical relief that God has provided. Here I’ll give you an overview of the physical work, a bit of clinical storyline for those interested, then some photographs|
Above you see our EFH (Emergency Field Hospital), as well as our sleeping quarter tents in the back. The hospital has an Emergency Dept (ambulance in front), male and female wards, an ICU and step-down, as well as an operating theater. Staff rotates through critical positions, each person present for as long as they can be (typically 2-8 weeks at a time). During my three weeks there I worked with several emergency and family medicine physicians and NP, an orthopedist, cardiologist/internist, and three general surgeons, as well as numerous nurses, from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. (The total DART team, composed of the hospital staff as well as hospital maintenance and bio-engineering, security, housing, supplies, logistics, distribution, chaplaincy, etc, numbered about 140-150 on the ground at any given time, and had volunteers coming from every continent except Antarctica by the time I left.) We had surgical staff composed those freshly-finished with fellowship, and those who’ve operated for 40 years all around the world. Hearing the stories of multiple team members and how they’d gotten there was a treasure. My truest heroes on hospital staff were our pharmacists, laboratory technician/pathologists, and radiology technician, who ran the entire hospital, 24 hours a day, for weeks at a time because there was only one of them available at a time. The sustaining grace of GOD was proven in infinite ways for each of us personally, as well as corporately.
Our hospital was set up in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The island most heavily affected by Hurricane Dorian was Abaco, where our non-hospital team members went by helicopter and boat to provide shelter and blankets, clean water, food/cooking supplies, and power generators, and to find people in need of medical care. Local people were also provided post-traumatic counseling through the Billy Graham Evangelical Assoc. chaplains. The stories and the despair often marking the patients who’d arrived from Abaco spoke of the devastation more surely than the news cameras can. We had teams moving throughout Grand Bahama providing the same services as given on Abaco. Freeport had many buildings still standing, but the flood had literally washed away everything from a great deal of them (sometimes down to the studs), and simply destroyed whatever was left inside.
Statistics for the relief effort on October 1 are as follows. I know that we had seen about 1,800 more patients by the time I left on the 11th, and I expect the other numbers also increased accordingly.
- Covered over 60 houses/community buildings with tarp
- Distributed over 8,300 tarps on Grand Bahama Island
- Distributed over 500 generators and over 6,000 solar lights on Abaco Island
- Provided over 170,000 liters of clean water
- Deployed over 120 staff including DART, IHQ, and IFS
- Transported over 279 metric tons of relief supplies on 14 DC-8 flights
- Received over 2,500 patients at the Emergency Field Hospital since September 10th.
|Here are some photos to give you a feel for our days. Tim (above) is an extensively disaster-experienced NP with whom I ran the triage/urgent care segment of the hospital, along with two of the nurses (Karen, Emily, or Hallie) pictured. We worked 12-14 hours, seven days a week, and saw 120-170 patients a day in our little tent. (In the photo of our compound, the front left corner has an open-air waiting area; ours was the smaller tent between it and the main ER) It was clinically interesting to watch the phases of disease we saw. The first wave of providers (before me) saw all of the acute wounds from both the hurricane and the flood. We did a lot of wound care follow-up (plenty of diabetics who’d waded in flood water for days and had horrible skin breakdown), other general skin rashes and infections from the floodwaters, hypertensive and diabetic crises since all their medication was literally washed out to sea, arthritis flares because so many cars were gone and people had to walk everywhere, as well as their physical labor to strip everything that remained out of their homes post-flood. Then we saw innumerable cases of exacerbated allergies and respiratory issues from the extensive mold on the island, followed by severe asthma attacks when the islands began to burn. We saw so many babies and young children in pretty dire condition with their asthma, and were so thankful to provide immediate relief. Their nebulizers and medications were gone, the local hospital was not available yet, and there was nowhere else to go for help. The fires came both from people burning their rubbish, and from uncontained brushfires. Only once was our compound threatened by fire. We were ready to evacuate the patients if we had to, but all paused and prayed for rain and a change in the wind. Within minutes our patients were sitting up, eyes wide and jaws dropped, as we heard the sound of raindrops falling on our tent! Finally a wave of gastrointestinal illnesses cropped up, though nothing was looking like cholera just yet. There was already access to clean water available, but not everyone was using it.|
We were the only functioning hospital in the upper Bahama Islands, and housed one solitary operating room. As such, in addition to the disaster-related diagnoses, we also saw all of the typical things: heart attacks, strokes, violence (gangs and drug systems woke back up about my second week in) and road trauma, perforated viscus, appendicitis and cholecystitis, arrhythmias, and LOADS of congestive heart failure. There were many people who had been unable to afford or access cardiology care for years that came to us just then, because they could finally get what they needed, free of charge, in a timely fashion, in Jesus’ Name. God sends HELP and HEALING in our times of greatest need, that reaches more deeply than our immediate relief. This was only further evidenced by the number of tumors, hernias, and various other problems that our surgeons were able to electively repair over the time we were present. There are some interesting clinical photos below. Some of these procedures are not life-saving, but truly life-changing for the patient. This was especially true of the keloids that had rendered people subject to constant ridicule and rejection over the years. Long story short, we saw a very interesting combination of disaster/first world/third world medicine in our time!
|I got to sit in the cockpit of SP’s small aircraft on flight from Nassau to Grand Bahama, where the local airport was just getting ready to open to public transport after some basic clean up. Below you see clockwise: the blue tarp our team had already covered dozens of roofs with, as well as the EFH compound in the center; a sweet young patient I got to serve, ER nurse Quinn working with national staff to manage and stock the crash carts, morning devotions, and team prayer at shift change. You can imagine how amazing it was to work in a hospital staffed completely by people there on mission, very intentional and strategic, and highly focused on doing the most good they could for as long as they were there. It was an incredible privilege.|
|Oriel was a key Bahamian pastor who worked with us and helped coordinate local efforts.|
|On the morning I was to come home (along with these two who had poured themselves out for weeks), a small aircraft crashed on the runway at the Nassau airport. We never heard if anyone was injured, but the incident effectively eliminated our chances of getting home that day. We were wrestling through disappointment until we heard Samaritan’s Purse’s DC-8 cargo plane was about to fly home (which just so happens to be a two hour drive from my house in South Carolina) after it’s last supply drop in Grand Bahama. They rushed us over to it, loaded us into the small passenger section, and took us home. One extra day would not have made a big difference ultimately, and the airlines would have rearranged our flights, but we were so exhausted and mentally “finished”, ready to be home with our families again. This final gift from our Father (along with the hot lunch and fresh fruit and cookies they served us on board) had me in tears most of the flight, as I recounted His goodness in both such seemingly trivial and monumental ways.|
There you have it! Of course there is so much more, and I am so thankful to have kept a bullet journal for almost every day I was there. The days were fast-paced and overwhelmingly filled with such significant content. On these brief deployments there is not really a day off, so God’s grace to me was displayed in even allowing me to remember key events at the end of the day, and I continue to process them in time. The work was hard, and the reality of the suffering was heartbreaking at times, but the absolute treasure of spending that time and energy in such a way is worthy of its weight. I saw the very heart and hand of GOD in densely concentrated fashion, and that is the truest blessing we can receive.
I am so grateful to be home with my family, and so grateful to have a family I longed to return to. There is no limit to the depth of goodness and grace He has poured out on His children, and I am overcome by its extent. It is truly more than I can bear, and He leaves me speechless and weeping time and again. To know His lovingkindness in the context of suffering is foundational and transcendent at the same time. I pray you find it today in whatever challenge you are facing.
Thank you for partnering with us and praying for us. We truly could not do what we do without your prayer support, encouragement, and financial investment. Thank you for sending us to give all we can to see Jesus glorified in all the earth!