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Arlington church members treat earthquake victims

Arlington resident Jean Wessel holds a 9-month-old baby in Dessalines, Haiti. - Courtesy photo
Arlington resident Jean Wessel holds a 9-month-old baby in Dessalines, Haiti.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

ARLINGTON — Jerry Rusher and Jean Wessel of Arlington have seen first-hand the devastating effects of the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January.

But the two members of Arlington Free Methodist Church have also witnessed inspiring tales, such as the one about a 16-year-old Haitian boy who jumped out of a collapsing building.

“He landed in the street and sustained a fracture of the thigh bone,” Rusher said in an e-mail. “He had no definitive care until arriving at our hospital two-and-a-half weeks later. After a spica cast was applied and the pain stopped, he had a smile on his face.”

Rusher and Wessel arrived in Santiago, Dominican Republic on Jan. 23, and traveled by bus to Haiti on Jan. 24.

The two medical practitioners have spent the past three weeks treating victims of the earthquake from Dessalines Hospital in central Haiti.

The hospital has 50 beds, five Haitian doctors and 87 staff members. Dessalines is located about 90 miles north of Port-au-Prince, and is home to about 10,000 residents.

It provides free care to all earthquake victims, Rusher said.

In an e-mail to The Arlington Times, Rusher said that his medical team initially saw a number of trauma cases that were directly related to the earthquake.

Now, staff members and volunteers are seeing an increasing number of cases not directly related to the quake, such as malaria and emotional grief, he said.

“People are living outside with their houses gone, resulting in an upswing in malaria since they are exposed to mosquitoes,” Rusher said.

Medical staff also provided a room for a compassionate Haitian pastor to provide grief counseling and prayer for patients.

Rusher said he was involved in the recruiting process for his team of nine doctors and nurses that were sent from the United States and Canada to Haiti.

That team is scheduled to split up shortly and a new team is slated to arrive.

Rusher said he will stay in Haiti for about five weeks and Wessel said she would stay for approximately two more weeks.

While the team has spent the majority of its time working on patients, Rusher said that his team members have been enjoying Haitian food for lunch and American food for breakfast and dinner.

“The team has come together quite well and we have good sharing times together in the evening about our day’s activities,” he said.

Rusher said that the earthquake did not cause much damage in Dessalines, but added that the whole country was still affected.

“As one Haitian pastor put it, ‘Port-au-Prince is the center of Haiti,’” Rusher said. “’Port-au-Prince is no more. Haiti is no more.’”

A number of refugees are coming from Port-au-Prince, and he said that the immensity of the impact of the earthquake on the country is hard to imagine.

“It has been quite evident how severely effected emotionally many of the patients have been,” Rusher said. “It is not surprising as many saw buildings crumble with family members inside that they would never see alive again.”

The hospital is jointly operated by the Free Methodist church and the Haitian government.

The Arlington Free Methodist Church has long supported the hospital, Rusher said.

“The response at this time has been heart-warming as many of our medications and supplies as well as money for paying the Haitian staff has come from the Arlington FM church,” he said.

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