Vignettes from the Wild

Spin Doctors

We have a world map hanging on our wall.   It's from an organization called Doctors without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières.   The idea is that medical professionals take some time off and provide care in remote, destitute places where their expertise can do the most good.

I hadn't given it much thought actually, other than that several friends of mine in the healthcare field had talked about it and/or actually gone to some other-side-of-the-world sounding places.  Like Nepal or Pakistan.

In the first few conversations, it's not considered polite in the boat culture to ask people what they did to be able to afford to be here.   But, if you get past the niceties phase, it's ok to ask what they did in their previous life, the implication being, "How did you get here?"

We didn't have to ask.   Sandra, the Tépacap mom saw the map the first time she came over and said, "Hey where did you get that?   I work for them!"    It turns out that she is the logistical coordinator for the Western Hemisphere, making sure that doctors have the transport, supplies and provisions they need to penetrate the wilderness and mayhem of third world countries to accomplish their life-saving mission.   She is based in Bordeaux, France, and speaks excellent English.  She told us this story.

Within hours of the Haiti earthquake, Médecins Sans Frontières, with Sandra making the calls, mobilized a C-130 cargo transport plane with 10 surgeons and nurses along with palattes of medical supplies, tents, water and food -- everything they would need to set up a forward hospital in the thick of the suffering and start treating patients.

They left from Puerto Rico and flew to the Haitian capital; over the city, the desolation was beyond words.   As their plane appoached the airfield it was contacted by the United States Air Force.

Hillary was on the ground with 5 planes.   One for her.  One for her entourage.  One for security personnel.  Two for the press.   The Air Force told Sandra's plane that they had control of the airfield and that it was denied permission to land because the damaged tarmac didn't have room for everyone to shuffle their planes around, load and get out.

In disbelief, the pilots called Sandra asking what to do next.   They circled for a couple of hours while Sandra desperately tried in vain to contact someone who could break the gridlock.   She describes herself being in tears on the phone, trying to make headway.

The pilots decided to turn back to the Dominican Republic.   They landed back in civilization, right where they started; the Air Force said they needed at least 10 hours and the doctor's C130 supply plane was already booked later that day.   Through tears of frustration, Sandra directed that all the gear be unloaded and transferred to trucks to head over land to the suffering.  

The convoy had border troubles, terrible road conditions; supplies were damaged and consumed.  One truck was lost entirely in the labryinth of dirt tracks criss-crossing Haiti.   The pilgramage dragged on day by day.   Eventually a few doctors got in and were able to work for only a few days before their food and water ran out.  Supplies were scarce and there wasn't proper equipment, or even adequate tenting.   They had to pull out.

Run Hillary, Run.