Spouses relieved to have volunteers back home

January 18, 2010 4:14:03 PM PST
Twenty-three volunteers who were on a medical mission in Haiti when the quake hit were back home Monday.The volunteers did their best to provide medical aid to earthquake victims before coming back home. They had gone on a regular medical mission, which was the seventh medical mission for the organization.

But on this trip they would be tested following the earthquake.

The volunteers returned on Saturday, but they still had not fully returned to themselves by Monday.

The 23 Chicagoans with the nonprofit group Little by Little were brought out of Haiti by FEMA and the Air Force.

"Thank God she's home," said Terry O'Brien was among the spouses frantically organizing the return trips for the team.

His wife, Stacy, is a stay-at-home mom who felt called to action.

The team treated 1,000 patients over seven days. Then, the earthquake struck.

"I turned my head and saw the mountains and the avalanche happen and saw where they were rolling down the mountain side, and I felt an absolute strike of fear," volunteer Kristen Broth said.

"We ran outside, and the trees were shifting and shaking, and it looked like they were blowing," Little by Little founder and volunteer Sue Walsh said.

"I never felt unsafe or scared, but when the earthquake happened, I was afraid of that," said volunteer Sparvim Nazarof.

The team included nurses, some from Children's Memorial Hospital, nursing students, medical technicians and trained volunteers. They were fortunate to have supplies left over from their mission to treat earthquake victims.

"We saw the worst trauma imaginable and the worst volume imaginable," Walsh said.

"I do feel we were able to make a little bit of difference and save some lives. It was a very difficult scene," said Borth.

Now that the entire team is home and safe, they focus on helping the survivors.

"I was vested in Haiti because my wife was. I have such a different appreciation for life now, and I'm sure our lives are changed forever," Terry O'Brien said.

Earthquake survivor and wife Stacy O'Brien did not want to speak on camera. However, she said she hopes others will be moved to action to help the people she came to know.

The volunteers say they simply were not equipped to stay and treat more patients in Port-au-Prince, but they were grateful to see rescuers and disaster relief responders arriving as they left.

They say they are already planning for the next team that might be going.

Chicago TV, Radio team up for Haiti relief

The Chicago broadcasting community is uniting to raise money. The Chicago Helps Haiti drive will be Thursday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

ABC7 is joining other TV and radio stations to broadcast a blitz of public service announcements, encouraging people to donate money to the American Red Cross.

A phone bank will be set up to accept donations.

Chicago diners contribute to relief effort

Starting Monday, diners at some Chicago restaurants will have a chance to help earthquake victims.

Customers will be asked to add a dollar to their checks, for the relief effort in Haiti. The money will be forwarded to the Heartland Alliance.

The restaurants include such well-known Chicago eateries as Blackbird, Goose Island, Atwood Cafe, Avec, Boka, The Bristol, Chaise Lounge and Piece.

The fundraising effort continues through the week.