Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TOP STORY >> Paramedic helped Haiti

Jacksonville Fire Battalion Chief Joe Bratton tells Rotary Club members he saw devastation in Haiti while he worked to save lives in that poor nation.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER

Leader senior staff writer

“Pray for the people of Haiti,” Jacksonville Fire Battalion Chief Joe Bratton told Jacksonville Rotarians at lunch Monday.

Bratton, himself an associate Baptist preacher in Sherwood, traveled to Port-au-Prince in February, just weeks after the devastating earthquake that flattened the capital city and killed about 230,000 people. Bratton was part of a six-person team organized by a Baptist group in Arkansas.

As a paramedic, Bratton was part of a three-person medical team, accompanied by a three-person construction team.

“With the earthquake several weeks old when they arrived, we found ourselves dealing with infection and parasites as opposed to traumatic injuries,” he said.

“We were trying to get people as healthy as possible for the rainy season,” he said.

“After a while, we stopped testing for worms and wormed everyone.”

Bratton and his companions paid their own airfare and expenses. The suitcases of medications—which quickly ran out—were donated, as was the water purification equipment they set up and left behind.

“They are the third world of the third world,” he said. Maybe the fourth world.’

“They were economically and resource challenged before the earthquake.”

He worked with a doctor, a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse.

He found the conditions hot and humid. They slept inside a church that survived the earthquake, ate there most of the time and held their clinics either in the church or outside under a tree.

“We called it the Mango Tree Clinic,” Bratton said.

“We lived and stayed with the Haitians,” he said, “and saw 1,227 patients in five days.”

The people were friendly, gracious, grateful and resilient, with a good spirit for people who have lost the little they had before the earthquake.

He said that despite the lack of water, the people he saw appeared fresh and appeared to be wearing clean clothes. “They smelled better than we did,” he said.

Children played and carried on, he said. “Kids were kids and teenagers were teenagers.”

He saw youngsters flying a kite made out of a plastic bag.

He saw no evidence of roving gangs or people stealing or looting, but relief supplies were on hand by then, as was armed security from several nations. He was mostly in the Canadian zone.

Water from broken water mains ran down the streets, which were also where the garbage was thrown.

“The garbage lay on the street, where it was burned or hogs rooted through it.”

Bratton said it would take Haiti at least 30 years to recover. Landlords and homeowners had no insurance and wouldn’t be rebuilding homes. Many he saw had improvised shelters in the medians of the highways.