Little has improved since the 7.0 quake hit Haiti a year ago today.

Collapsed buildings entomb the dead. Tent cities cover the landscape. Raw sewage flows in the streets and cholera is taking its toll.


Little has improved since the 7.0 quake hit Haiti a year ago today.
Collapsed buildings entomb the dead. Tent cities cover the landscape. Raw sewage flows in the streets and cholera is taking its toll.
The quake claimed more than 200,000 lives Jan 12, 2010.
One year later, people are still dying.
“You have close to 4,000 deaths and over 100,000 people infected with cholera (an intestinal infection that causes profuse vomiting and diarrhea),” said Stuart Hirsch, RN, chief pilot and founder of Archangel Airborne.
A non-profit flight mission team, Archangel Airborne is headquartered out of TML Aircraft, Cherry Ridge Airport. They’re “dedicated to providing healthcare solutions and support to areas of great need,” Hirsch said.
Comprised of 15 core members, 20 physicians, 10 nurse practitioners and physician assistants, along with eight professional pilots, members of the team have completed two mission trips to Haiti thus far, bringing much needed medical supplies and clinicians. 
A first flight in May was followed by a second in August, with the delivery of 300 pounds of medication to Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes: broad-range antibiotics, insulin, and critical care meds obtained through AmeriCare, a program that supplies medicines to non-profit groups working in underserved areas. 
“The hospital had just run out of some of the same antibiotics we were bringing to it. And we brought enough supplies for these medications for a three-month time period,” Hirsch said.
They currently have two Piper Comanches in service and are bringing a larger aircraft online in 2011, a Piper Navajo Chieftain, a 10-passenger commuter aircraft that can be converted for hauling up to 2,000 pounds of payload.
Their hope is to fly 2,000 pounds of critical supplies into Haiti each trip. 
Conditions in Haiti are deplorable. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the quake, what are they now?
“They’re a proud people. They’re a resourceful people, but they’ve had such a crippling blow with this earthquake,” Hirsch said.
“Two million homeless, about a quarter of their population,” said Chuck Atwell, a nationally registered paramedic and chief operating officer for Archangel Airborne.
“People are actually living on the streets. The houses are collapsed. They’re living in the tents on the streets, basically a trashbag over their heads at night. That’s all they have. And it rains there every day,” said Michael Lovelace, Archangel Airborne’s chief financial and chief maintenance officer.
Huge tent cities, persistent rain, and open sewer is a recipe for disaster. “It’s just a recipe for the spread of disease,” Hirsch says. “Illness is rampant, with limited resources to treat them.”
In Haiti, people are “dying of things that are totally preventable,” said Justin Green, an aircraft mechanic with TML, a commercial pilot and volunteer with Archangel Airborne. “Why are people dying of minor illnesses? Why do families have to go out and buy medical supplies on the black market? No one should have to do that.” 
“Haiti ranks number one in the world for deathrate in 2010, 32.3 deaths per 1,000 population,” Hirsch said. “U.S.A. is 8.38 per 1,000. That’s a huge difference. Infant mortality. There’s 77.2 deaths of babies to 1,000 live births (in Haiti). U.S.A. — 6.41. When you get down to the cold numbers, it speaks volumes.”
Atwell says life expectancy has decreased by over 50 percent since the earthquake.
“Total population, life expectancy is 29 years,” Hirsch said.
“It was 60 something before the earthquake,” Atwell tacked on.
In the U.S., the average life expectancy is 78 years.   
Located just a few hours off the Florida coastline, Haiti has so little when compared to the U.S., Hirsch said.
“You realize the great disparity of the human condition, when compared to our great country with our resources, to have a country like Haiti just a few hours off the coastline have a level of care that is so disparate and so hopeless in some ways”
“A lot of people come to me and say, ‘Why Haiti? There’s so many people suffering in the U.S. Why don’t you help people in the U.S.?’ “ Atwell said.
“People are correct, there are a lot of people that are ‘suffering’ in the U.S. But we have the social crutches in the U.S. to help them. These people have nothing. There’s chickens roaming around in the hospital. There’s no doctor in the hospital a lot of times. They don’t have any supplies in the hospital,” Atwell said.
It was hard for the team to take it all in. A motorcycle accident victim lay for days without pain medication, a compound leg fracture — the bone sticking through the skin. “One arm was amputated, his leg was broken in several different places and they were waiting for pins to put the leg back together,” Lovelace said. “He was there all the time that we were there, and nobody ever saw him.”
Another accident victim had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and with no neurosurgical intervention, was slowing dying in front of them.
“If that same accident happened in Honesdale, you would have a helicopter medivac team pick him up and take him to CMC in Scranton. And there you’d have a surgical trauma team relieve the pressure on his brain,” Hirsch said. 
 “To see the conditions that we saw with this young man and then with the children that were dying was profoundly disturbing,” Hirsch said. “There’s a sense of not being able to save someone’s life, which goes against the grain if you’re a medical professional. It’s troubling. It’s profoundly disturbing to the soul.
“We can’t save all of Haiti. But our flight team, working with other flight teams and other mission groups and non-governmental organizations, has a tremendous impact. It’s a ripple effect,” Hirsch said.
“It is the single act of kindness and compassion that has a ripple effect, that can inspire others to do similar work. And that’s what can transform a country. By partnering with the people there and trying to work on a sustainable solution for improving the health and welfare of the people,” Hirsch added.
“You can’t cure all of the country’s problems. But what you can do, I firmly believe this, is that you can change the lives that you touch,” Hirsch said.
“You never know what that person will do later on,” Atwell said.
Archangel Airborne hopes to complete a mission every quarter in 2011, with the ultimate goal of flying monthly mission trips. 
“We’re trying to get enough money to pay off our debts from the last missions and also to get enough money ahead” for future missions, Lovelace said.
“We hope to do a mission every quarter,” Lovelace added. “There’s a lot of interest out there to help us do that. And we really need the community support behind us.”
For more information, go to archangelairborne.org.