Registered nurse Joanne Ogden and nurse practitioner Danette McIntyre are in Port au Prince, Haiti this week to volunteer their services.
Ogden, who works at Fort Frances Area Tribal Health Services, and McIntyre, employed at the Gizhewaadiziwin Access Centre, had been thinking for some time about going to Haiti, where many people still are recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Ogden noted Deirdre (Dee) O’Sullivan-Drombolis, a physiotherapist with Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. here, forged a path for other local health-care professionals by going to Haiti in May with “Project Medishare,” a company with the University of Miami dedicated to sharing human and technical resources with Haiti to achieve quality health care and development.
“Ever since the earthquake, we had been wondering about a safe way to go down and offer expertise in wound care and other things, and just couldn’t find a safe place to go through, a reputable place to go through,” Ogden explained.
“So [Dee] kind of blazed the way because she had a really, really good experience.
“We just decided, ‘There you go, there’s no excuse now for us not to go,’” Ogden added. “I just asked Danette to come with me because it would be way better to go the two of us.
“We decided we would go and do this.”
“It’s something I always wanted to do, but I thought I should wait until my son [Ryan] was older—he’s only 13,” noted McIntyre.
“It seemed like a safe bet,” she said. “It’s a week, and ‘Project Medishare’ has a good reputation of taking good care of its volunteers.
“And it gives me the opportunity to help out. I’ve been thinking about this since the earthquake,” McIntyre added.
“I’m excited to go down and see what we can do to help.”
The duo left here Thursday to Minneapolis and then to Miami, where they flew out of on Saturday. They’re working this week in Port au Prince, where they’ll fly out of Sept. 14.
Ogden said they were told they could be working seven 12- to 16-hour shifts.
“However much we can do, they’ll gratefully accept,” she noted.
Both also said they were looking forward to the challenge of working in a different environment.
“I haven’t done pediatrics in 30 years, and I haven’t done ICU in 20 years, and they put me in pediatric ICU,” Ogden chuckled.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge [but] we’re up for that challenge of doing something new,” she stressed.
“Everybody likes to be helpful, right?”
Ogden also expected to be called on to provide education on wound care and point of care blood testing.
McIntyre, meanwhile, chose to work in emergency, where she used to work for six years while in Sioux Lookout.
“Apparently, the emergencies are usually multi-traumas and stuff like that—true emergencies,” she noted.
“I haven’t worked emergency for 14 years, but I have kept up on my ACLS [Advanced Cardiac Life Support] certification and I love emergency medicine.
“It should be a little bit taxing and likely emotional and really, really busy,” she conceded. “But I am looking forward to it.”
Ogden said she’s also interested to see what the health-care system in Haiti is like compared to Canada, and provide some perspective on the matter.
“A lot of people are complaining about a 20-minute wait for ER, an hour wait for ER—we get so complacent about our health care and how good we have it here,” she remarked.
“I think a dose of reality is a real eye-opener,” Ogden added.
“We’re hoping to share more about that when we come home—not about us going, but more about what the norm is down there and how really lucky we are to have what we have here.”
“People help in whatever way they can, and the people here have contributed to the whole effort with supplies and their time and money and donations,” noted McIntyre.
“Even my son is sending his cars down there, his ‘Hot Wheels’ cars, and his clothing.
“I just think everybody contributes in their own way and this is what I can do; this is what I am capable of doing,” McIntyre reasoned.
“I think we all have a responsibility as part of the ‘haves’ to contribute to the ‘have-nots’—to try to equalize humanity with it,” she added.
“I think it’s going to make us realize that we really do sweat the small stuff here.”
The pair brought with them as many supplies as they could, ranging from sterile gauze and tape, rubber gloves, head lamps, stethoscopes, and pulse oximeters to scrubs, diaper wipes, a mosquito tent and repellent, books, and even candies for the kids.
These are in addition to goods they had shipped down to Miami and then Haiti a few weeks ago.
They got together a four-and-a-half foot by four-and-a-half foot by six and-a-half-foot pallet and packed it full of personally-donated supplies, as well as supplies from La Verendrye General Hospital, the Fort Frances Community Clinic, Gizhewaadiziwin Access Centre, and Fort Frances Area Tribal Health Services.
While “Project Medishare” flew Ogden and McIntyre out of Miami, and will fly them back again, they had to get themselves to Miami and pay for accommodations along the way.
They also each had to raise $750 online to pay for food, water, and accommodations while in Haiti.
Thanks to the support of friends and co-workers, they were successful.
In fact, Ogden raised enough funds for two trips, so she plans to return to Haiti in November and this time bring along fellow Fort Frances Area Tribal Health Services staff member Sandra McNay.