Medical team returns home from Haiti

February 13, 2010 9:08:14 PM PST
A 10-day medical mission after the devastating earthquake in Haiti has wrapped up, and a group of Chicago area health professionals received a warm reception Saturday night in the suburbs.The volunteers talked about what they saw while in Haiti.

There have been several flights and hundreds of volunteers from the Chicago area who have gone to Haiti. The group returning Saturday is a church group. However, it was also a grassroots mission that ended up happening only because of generosity and chance.

The group traveled from earthquake-stricken Haiti to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to the Aurora municipal airport. The charter flight with eight medical volunteers landed around 5 p.m. Saturday, and the hugs started moments after.

"You're grateful you had the opportunity to help, but it's hard to leave and know you're coming home to something so great," said Kristine Ehlers, a nurse.

Most of the volunteers are from Christ Community Church in St. Charles. Some greeted their loved ones on the tarmac, still in their shorts.

Volunteers like Bob Berg left their children behind for 10 days.

"A lot of people were hurt. A lot of people in need of help, but we helped a small amount of them," said Berg, an anesthesiologist.

"People under sheets, no running water, no electricity, food is hard to come by," team leader Melissa Smith said.

"It was very fulfilling just having the severe gratitude I saw in people's faces, seeing how tough these people are there," said Andrew Saxer, a paramedic EMT.

But the trip including doctors, nurses, an anesthesiologist, and a dentist almost didn't happen because flights they booked on commercial airlines kept getting suspended into Haiti.

Then, Scott Luman heard through a friend of a friend that the team was having travel troubles. Luman immediately connected the group with his father who is a pilot and owns Lumanair Aviation Services.

"I did what it took to get a hold of fuel, the logistics, the flight planning, just whatever it took to make sure the flight would go off without a hitch, and it did," Scott Lumen said.

Christ Community Church has been sending volunteers to Haiti for several years now. So, they are used to seeing the poverty, but the people who went on the trip say the hardship they witnessed were like nothing they had ever seen before.

They also said there were problems with supplies and donations not being distributed properly.