Chicagoans still helping Haiti earthquake recovery

January 12, 2012 4:52:54 PM PST
Two years ago, a massive earthquake rocked Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people and wiping out entire villages.

Among the facilities lost were several hospitals, but a plan under way in Chicago is helping rebuild some of them.

The earthquake leveled Grace Children's Hospital in Port Au Prince -- all but one patient survived. Now, patients are in temporary areas, but some Chicagoans are eager to erect a new hospital.

"The tent camps are still there - it's two years later, and we still have a significant percent of the population still living in tents," said Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th District).

"There is still a tremendous amount of work that has yet to be done," said Patrick Magoon, CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital.

Thursday, a group of healthcare providers, architects and politicians stood together at Children's Memorial Hospital vowing to bring the children of Haiti a world-class hospital.

The delegation has been on four trips to Haiti, bringing healthcare, supplies, and now a plan for a new permanent hospital.

"We have resources here in the City of Chicago from multiple institutions, and we have been very fortunate that so many people have stepped up," said Mary Astor Gomez, a nurse practitioner at Children's Memorial Hospital.

Before the earthquake, Haitians struggled with poverty and disease. Raoul is Haitian-American and made many trips to the old Grace Hospital with his father, who was a physician.

"My dad made sure that, one: I was in touch with my roots, but two: that I saw the need of other children my age and younger," said Raoul.

Other local healthcare professionals responded immediately to the needs in Haiti after the earthquake.

Dr. Dan Ivankokich, an orthopedic surgeon, and Rosite Feteu-Merentie, a Haitian-American nurse, have been to Haiti several times since the quake and say the need continues two years later.

"The quality of life and the life expectancy of an average Haitian is actually shorter now than it was prior to the earthquake, so I think that humanitarian aid, rescue is an ongoing issue," said Ivankovich, who is part of the OnePatient Global Health Initiative.

"It's been two years... for Haitians, it's still fresh wounds - it feels like yesterday," said Feteu-Merentie.

Feteu-Merentie is planning another trip in February. Ivankovich has supplies to take down but is trying to navigate the red tape.

The hope is to have new Grace Children's Hospital up and running by the end of 2013, but they need to raise $35 million and they anticipate much red tape to get from grants to ground breaking .

The Children's Memorial delegation is going back in March.


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