More local groups send teams to help in Haiti

Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:36 p.m.

With Gainesville residents in Haiti apparently safe after Wednesday's aftershock, local groups continue to send doctors and supplies to the earthquake-stricken country.

A magnitude-5.9 aftershock hit west of Port-au-Prince around 6 a.m. Local churches and the University of Florida received word later in the day that none of their personnel was injured.

"We do have definite word that all of the people on the ground are safe and continuing to work hard after (Wednesday) morning's second earthquake," said the Rev. Max Wilkins, pastor of the Family Church.

Just hours after Wednesday's aftershock, a team from The Orthopedic Institute in Gainesville flew to Haiti. The group included two orthopedic surgeons, two plastic surgeons and a surgical technician.

"We're hoping to do as many operations as we can," said Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a plastic surgeon.

The group, which plans to be there a week or more, brought medical supplies donated by local hospitals and clinics. Another area resident, Sam Frasier of Moses and Associates engineering, flew supplies to Haiti on the company plane last weekend and plans to make several more trips this weekend.

"A little bit can go a long way," he said. "These are people with limited resources making a huge difference."

More than a dozen local residents have traveled to Haiti to bring supplies, treat the wounded and help with relief efforts. After delays in Gainesville and the Dominican Republic, a UF-affiliated team entered Haiti on U.S. military helicopters and traveled to the Port-au-Prince suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets

The team was divided into medical and public health groups, according to UF. The public health team planned to do a public health assessment and deliver supplies in the rural town of Gressier, before heading to a mission in nearby Christianville.

The medical team, which includes three physicians and a nurse, is working at a field hospital in Croix-des-Bouquets before going to Christianville. The injured are lined up at the hospital with severely infected and mangled limbs, according to UF.

The Orthopedic Institute expects to deal with similar issues, Rosenberg said. The Family Church's Jeff Moody said medical personnel affiliated with the church have been amputating limbs, including people who were treated for injuries last week but now have infections.

A nurse with the team told him that "things are pretty bad," Moody said.

The aftershock caused more buildings to collapse, but news reports suggested many escaped injury because they were sleeping outside. Grace United Methodist's Brian Steele said a missionary working with a church member reported everyone there was safe.

"He thinks there's not much damage because everything that could fall already did," Steele said.

Area groups continue to collect money and medical supplies. Chiefland resident Brian Capps said his mother and stepfather, Beverly and Richard Felmey, are gathering supplies before returning to the mission they run in a rural Haitian village. While the village is far from the epicenter, he said it has been inundated by people fleeing Port-au-Prince.

In addition to taking supplies, Frasier said he helped evacuate missionaries from Haiti last weekend. This weekend, he's taking money collected through Trinity United Methodist Church and supplies donated by several local businesses.

"We want to see this though," he said. "There's no sense in doing it unless you're going to finish the job."

Lise Fisher contributed to this report. Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or

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