Chicago-area doctors heading to Haiti

January 19, 2010 4:04:35 AM PST
A number of Chicago-area doctors and nurses are likely to be rotating in and out of Haiti for some time as earthquake relief efforts continue.ABC7 caught up with some who are leaving Tuesday morning.

Dr. Beth Dowell is a Creole-speaking physician who used to live in Haiti and has experience helping with natural disasters.

Dr. Nick Johnson of Hospitals for Humanity is a trauma doctor who is volunteering for the first time for a disaster.

Both doctors realize that, no matter how much medical experience they have, nothing will prepare them mentally.

"Antibiotics are going to be the most important by far," Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson was busy Monday packing up eight bags and boxes full of donated medical supplies. The emergency room and trauma doctor said it was enough to treat 500 people, which he knew would not be nearly enough for his mission ahead.

"I'm hearing reports that doctors say it's like Civil War medicine," Johnson said.

After watching so many news stories about the devastation and the need for medical help in Haiti, the 31-year-old from Methodist Hospital in Gary felt it was his duty to go.

"I heard there is a huge shortage of doctors, and it turns out I have the next eight days off randomly. It was almost fate telling me I had to go," said Johnson.

So, Johnson signed on with the group Hospitals for Humanity. He is hoping his experience with traumatic injuries in Gary will prepare him for Haiti, but realistically, the doctor knows better.

"I don't think anything really will prepare me adequately for what I'm going to see," he told ABC7 Chicago.

Dr. Beth Dowell is preparing to go to Haiti, as well. The family physician who works at West Side medical clinics spent part of her childhood in Haiti.

She also is no stranger to natural disasters. Dowell helped Hurricane Katrina victims, but she says she knows Haiti will be a whole different challenge.

" I anticipate being a little overwhelmed with destruction and suffering. I also anticipate that I'm going to be able to do something," she said.

Dr. Dowell is going with the group Heartland alliance. That organization, and Hospitals for Humanity, need donations to send medical help to Haiti.

Besides packing, Dr. Johnson has spent the last couple days reading up on medical procedures that are beyond his scope, such as amputations or brain surgery.

Both doctors will be in Haiti for about eight days.

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.