Doctor, daughter team delivers medical supplies to Haiti
As devastation from the earthquake in Haiti spread, Dr. Mitchell Schuster knew how quickly he needed to act. Within 48 hours, Schuster and a team of medical students and doctors gathered nearly 2,000 supplies, including IV bags, tubing and 160 doses of tetanus shots from Boca Raton Community Hospital.
For 10 days last month, Schuster and his team traveled around Haiti providing medical help wherever it was needed. Beginning their days before sunrise, members of the group would head to University General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, bandaging wounds, prepping victims for surgery and offering a comforting word or embrace.
“It was a house of carnage when we arrived,” said Schuster, a Fort Lauderdale resident. “Most did not have family with them. There were many unsupervised children, presumably orphaned. Nobody was unscathed.”
The team, which included Schuster’s 24-year-old daughter Jessica, constructed tents outside the hospital for all medical care except surgery. There were fears that aftershocks would collapse the building.
“We did whatever we could with the limited number of resources we had,” said Ashok Khatri, 33, a member of Schuster’s team.
The team worked as long as daylight was available. Without working lights, there were safety concerns. Guns sounded in the night, and people with gunshot wounds would appear at the hospital the following day. Cars blocked roads where people slept in the street.
“I’m not sure our society in America could tolerate what they are going through," Schuster said. “There was far more calm than unrest. The people of Haiti have been getting bad press for years.”
But this was not Schuster’s first venture into the world of humanitarian disaster relief. He has been volunteering for decades, providing medical care during disasters in the Philippines, Somalia and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. In 2007, Schuster created the Bicol Clinic Foundation to offer rapid-response medical care and supplies to foreign disaster areas.
Schuster plans, with the Bicol Clinic Foundation, to eventually build an eco-friendly Montessori school to help rebuild Haiti’s educational system.
The foundation is now collecting crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, canes and prosthetic devices for Haitian earthquake victims who lost limbs or are immobile. So far, it has raised $40,000 for supplies. Schuster said he hopes to return to Haiti by March to deliver them.
For ways to help the earthquake victims in Haiti, visit Fort Lauderdale's "Haiti Relief" site here.
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