**Hope Through Healing Hands donated $5,000 to Big Kenny's Love Everybody, LLC to support the medical and trauma services he and his team provided in Haiti.

by Cindy Watts

The Tennessean Blog

Country singer "Big Kenny" Alphin was in the Charlotte, N.C., airport flying home to Nashville from a gig when he saw the news - a 7.0 magnitude earthquake had struck Haiti. Capital city Port au Prince was in shambles. More than 100,000 people were presumed dead.

Alphin immediately called Jeanne Ratterman. Her husband, Alphin's friend Walt Ratterman, had been in Port au Prince since Jan. 2.

The news - no news.

Ratterman is a Washington-based specialist in renewable energy who travels all over the world - including with Alphin to Sudan - promoting the technology to war-torn countries and impoverished nations. On the day of the earthquake, he was in a business meeting at Hotel Montana in Port au Prince. He had e-mailed Jeanne at 4:45 p.m. The earthquake hit about eight minutes later.

"I thought. ‘Of all the dudes I know that could take care of himself wherever, that dude could,' " Alphin said. "I just kept thinking he was going to show up out of the blue, and the only reason people hadn't heard from him was because he was pulling other people out."

But Alphin got home and still there was no word from his friend. So the singer (half of country duo Big & Rich) assembled a search-and-rescue team. They returned empty-handed.

"Monday the 11th, I (had gotten) an e-mail from him," Alphin said. "This was the day before the earthquake. The e-mail said, ‘Kenny, I've been thinking a lot about you lately. I'm looking forward to seeing you, and I've been thinking a lot about life. I've come to the conclusion that, other than family being the most important thing, I figure the most important things in life are helping other people and music, and I guess that's why the two of us met up.' "

So on January 20, eight days after the quake, Alphin went to Haiti to look for Ratterman himself. What he found there shook him to the core.

 

‘Gringos, you will be killed'

Alphin and a crew of five, including his brother, Christian, flew from Nashville to Miami and then to the Dominican Republic. They caught a ride with a bus full of doctors, driving all evening and into the night. They slept a few hours on the floor of a warehouse, and in the morning the bus took them to the Haitian border.

"We proceeded to try and flag down a pickup," Alphin said. "We found one and started throwing our stuff in the back. This other doctor, still in his surgeon greens, shows up in another pickup, and he's like, ‘You will not ride in a back of a pickup. Gringos, you will be killed.' I said, ‘I will not be killed. I'm going that way.'

"There were a lot of people at the border, pressing, trying to get into the Dominican Republic, trying to get to safety or water or food. (The doctor) said, ‘Wait a minute. Just sit there.' "

The doctor managed to find the group a ride in a pair of Dominican ambulances headed into Port au Prince to pick up the injured. They dropped Alphin and his crew at the entrance to the Chinese embassy. Eventually, a Haitian embassy driver and his sister agreed to transport Alphin and his team to the hotel.

"They piled all of our stuff in these cars and drove us through the city of collapse," Alphin said. "She slowed down in front of her church, which looked like it was half crumbled, so I could see to the back of it where there was a school that housed 2,000 kids. That was flattened. I've got nothing in my lifetime to compare what it looked like. Maybe Hiroshima. There was rubble everywhere."

‘When I'm looking for her son, this is what I see'

At the hotel, Alphin saw a man in a Fairfax County vest. A Virginia native, Alphin knew that meant Virginia Task Force 1, one of the premier search-and-recovery teams in the U.S.

"The fellow turns around, and I introduce myself," Alphin said. " ‘Hi, I'm Big Kenny, and I have a friend here.' ... They showed me all the tunneling they had done and directed me into the tunnels and told me to go as far as I wanted to go. He wanted me to see they were doing everything humanly possible to get people out of the building."

Alphin said the wreckage of the Montana was populated with international search teams, all looking for survivors from their own countries. But really, they were operating a morgue.

"As of the time I was down there, over 70,000 bodies were buried outside the city," he said. "I would not (hesitate) to say, just from driving though the city, that tens of thousands were burned in the street, because the stench is so bad. The morgues were full. The hospitals were full.

"There's probably a quarter of a million people dead there. There were 2,500 killed in the Twin Towers - (this is) a hundred times the catastrophe that we as a country experienced in the Twin Towers."

Alphin and his team slept that night on mats in what used to be the hotel parking lot. The next day, more people started showing up in search of loved ones. One man asked Alphin for tools so he could dig into the structure himself to find his family. And then, as the singer sat on his sleep mat, he was approached by a woman looking for power tools.

"She was a mother who had been in the hotel with her husband, 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter and her 4-year-old son," Alphin said. "She had her daughter, and saw walls crumble between her and husband and son. She and her daughter made it out.

"I sat with her for a while and got all the specifics I could about her family, so if we found them or anything came up related to them, I could tell her."

Then Alphin headed into the wreckage of the hotel. "I do everything I can do until it overcomes me, and I let it overcome me, and then I go back (into the rubble)," Alphin said, tears welling up again.

"If it was my child in there, I would stop everything and move heaven and earth, and I don't think anyone's child is any different," he said. "My boy is 4 years old and her boy is 4 years old. When I'm looking for her son, this is what I see." Crying in earnest now, Alphin pulled out his cell phone to display a picture of his own son. "I was going to make sure she got her boy back."

‘Let's go get it'

While Alphin was working at the Montana, word started circulating about a nursing home that served the poor that had collapsed. There were said to be 85 survivors, and they had been without food and water for more than a week.

When Alphin got there, a camp for displaced people had sprung up in front of the nursing home. Instead of 85 people, there were more than a thousand.

"People are scared to get out of their vehicles at this point," Alphin recalled. "Kids jump on your car and grab things, but they just want something to eat.

"I find the guy who says he is the head of this nursing home, and I'm speaking in broken French, but I have a translator. He says he has no food and no water. I said, ‘Let's go get it.' "

The nursing home operator told Alphin that it was Saturday night, so no food was available. He didn't buy it. The man tried to get Alphin to just give him money to buy food, but he didn't like that idea either.

"After this Caribbean negotiation that goes on for an hour, we take off and head down into the slums, and I see bags of fruit sitting on the sides of the road," Alphin said. "You get down into the slums and it's just a like a farmers' market in a pigsty - and I raised pigs growing up, so I know what pigsties look like and smell like, and this is a farmers' market in a pig sty. People are just doing their all, just fighting to sell what they can sell."

Alphin and his team bought 10 burlap sacks of cooking coal, baskets of fruit, 350 pounds of rice, 250 pounds of beans and cooking oil, all from different vendors, and took it all back to the nursing home.

"I don't know anybody who would walk with me in there right now, and that's what this place needs - someone to walk amongst the people and help them out," Alphin said. "I got down on my knee and sang ‘Amazing Grace' to them and left and went back to the Hotel Montana. That needs to be done about 10,000 more times."

‘I still maintain hope'

Toward the end of Alphin's stay in Haiti, earth-moving equipment arrived at the hotel, and workers had begun opening up portions of the wreckage that seemed likely to have pockets where people might have survived.

"The last couple of voids that we broke into, from 200 yards away you could just smell (human decay)," Alphin said. "That's a crazy thing."

By the time Alphin left Haiti, the hotel site was no longer considered a search-and-rescue mission. It had been turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers as a recovery effort.

Alphin recognizes that two weeks is about the extent of how long a person can survive without food and water, but still he expects Ratterman to come strolling over and say, "Man, you look like you could use some help."

"I still maintain hope Walt is sitting in some cavity with food stores all around him, or he had enough granola bars stuffed in his pockets and he's just sitting there meditating," Alphin said. "If there was a guy that could survive, it's him."

At press time, Ratterman still had not been found. Alphin plans to return to Haiti the first chance he gets. He wants to build a school in his friend's honor.

The mother's 4-year-old son and her husband were recovered Tuesday. Recovered, Alphin pointed out - not rescued.

 

January 25, 2010

Invisible Lives, a documentary scheduled to air worldwide January 26 at 20:30 GMT on BBC World, will be featuring the work of Save the Children.  In the documentary, Dr. Joy Lawn, a newborn health expert with Save the Children, travels to Nepal and Malawi to examine how these two countries, although worlds apart, are making progress in saving newborn lives. The documentary explores how these low-income countries are among the few on track to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths of children under 5 years of age by 2/3 by 2015 despite a myriad of obstacles.

Those who have satellite television or special cable may have access to the program on the BBC World Channel.  If you don't, there will be a free download to the video of the program on and after 26th January at www.rockhopper.tv

 

January 25, 2010

King's Hospital: Physicians helping physicians

by Bill Frist, M.D.

Just after our arrival at the Port au Prince airport, I met a volunteer medical team on the tarmac. They had supplies, but they were stranded at the airport with nowhere to go. They were awaiting UN directions and approval to leave.

We had just gotten off our plane and they saw my Samaritan's Purse hat and asked for help. We only had one truck so I told them I'd just received an email from King's hospital and that they were in dire need of help.

I said I would postpone our departure from the airport to have our truck take them immediately to King's hospital if they were willing. They were dropped off...

And then today, I received an email of thanks from the physicians Sylvia Campbell and Jeanne David. They noted that in the midst of all the sadness and pain there was hope - exemplified by the baby they delivered on the steps of the hospital immediately after they arrived.

This is just one story of hope and the fortuitous opportunity we had to help these women save the lives of many that day.

 

The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health is hosting the second annual Tennessee Global Health Forum on February 12, 2010.

The Forum is being held at the Vanderbilt Student Life Center in Nashville, Tennessee and is bringing together individuals and organizations that are involved or hope to be involved in global health and development. The forum will address how sustainability fits into the arena of global health, offer lessons from leaders in international orgnazations based in Tennessee, help identify the existing and potential approaches to buliding sustainable programs in the Tennessee local area expanding to the global setting, and to explore and open up new doors to the successful methods that lead to sustaining global health programs.

Experiencing this forum, one can walk away with new ideas, methods, and applicable practices that will allow one to immediatley take action in global health, have the extra push to encourage others to engage in global health, connect themselves to the network of global health and development activists and importantly improve one's project right away.

The Forum is divided into two sessions: a morning "Roundtable Topic Discussion" and an afternoon "Lessons Learned". One can expect to hear from various speakers from areas of faith based organizations, health informatics, local volunteers, and Nonprofit organizations.  The forum is very participant driven in conversations and interactions with panels addressing topics such as, "when to let go: recognizing and acting on the need for change in organizational leadership" or "Cost recovery-is nonprofit, charitable health care a realistic and sustainable goal?.

To register and check out program information, visit www.globalhealth.vanderbilt.edu/forum. Or one can call (615) 322-3974. With registration, indicate/select your top three selections for the morning roundtable discussion and the afternoon lessons learned session. Special dietary requests can be accommodated.

 

A Fundraiser to Benefit Hope Through Healing Hands

THIS SATURDAY, JANUARY 23rd

@ George

3251 Prospect St. NW Courtyard Washington, DC

9:00pm Minimum $25 donation / cover

**All proceeds will go directly to helping organizations on the ground in Haiti**

---------------------------

9:00 - 11:00pm: Open bar (liquor drinks) & cash bar for drink specials, beer and wine

After 11:00pm: Cash bar for drink specials and dancing 

 If you cannot attend, please consider donating:

Donate to HTHH's Haiti Fund

 Please spread the word to all friends and co-workers. 

 Hosts: Harrison Frist & Ashley Huff, Jonathan Frist, Chris Gorges, Hilary McArthur,

Jenny McGehee, Matt McInnis, Kathryn & David Murphy, Page Oelschig, Kelly Piper,

Conner Ryan, Will Speicher, Ryal Tayloe, Whit Walker, Heather Young

January 21, 2010

This is the latest update sent by USAID-DCHA to be released to the public.

KEY DEVELOPMENTS

At 0603 hours local time, a magnitude 5.9 aftershock occurred 35 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, with the epicenter located near Petit Goâve town, Ouest Department, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 94,000 people experienced very strong shaking during the aftershock; however, the extent of the damages and injures currently remain unclear. According to the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART), U.S. urban search and rescue (USAR) teams are deploying to aftershock-affected areas, including Petit Goâve and Léogâne towns, to assess potential damages.

Following the aftershock, U.S. USAR teams began resurveying buildings to identify potential new open spaces created by the aftershock where survivors may be trapped and monitor building shifts.

On January 20, USAID's Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) contributed an additional $20 million to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) Emergency Operation for Haiti, increasing USAID/FFP's overall contribution to $68 million to date. At present, expedited commodity purchases are being organized.

1.20.10 USAID-DCHA Haiti-Earthquake Fact Sheet #8

January 20, 2010

Afternoon

Baptist Mission Hospital - Fermathe, Haiti

I just finished rounds. Here is the story of one young woman, Rouite Tisma:

She is a 16 year old schoolgirl still at school at 4:30.

The earthquake hit and the building crumbled around her, killing 6 others.

Dad, knowing she had stayed at school, went that night with flashlight and search for his daughter.  He told me he found nothing but piles of boulders and concrete where the school had been. Going from mound to mound, he called out her name ... Nothing but collapsed building. He helplessly called for hours wandering from pile to pile of building rubble.  Miraculously, she recognized his voice, and she responded from beneath 6 feet of rubble and concrete.  She called backed, hearing her Dad calling her name. It was pitch dark, but he directed his flashlight in the direction of his daughter's voice.  He spotted the back of her neck through the deep pile.  He told her that she would be alright.  He ran back to get his son to help remove her from the crushed debris.

Using just a shovel and pick, they worked to get her out. While buried, they could not get food or water to her because she was crumpled over and face down. On the third day, she was freed. Three days of father and son digging.

She was brought to hospital and waited for 24 hours. Her right leg was swollen and crushed. Fascitomy.  Left forearm swollen -- fasciotomy. No sensation in leg or hand and grossly swollen. But she is alive ... And thankful.

On rounds yesterday her appreciative Dad opened his Bible to John 3:16 and pointed it out to us.  It was in Creole so we, of course, couldn't read it.

Today she looks great and her brother was eager to help massaging her hands for physical therapy. 

This gives some feel to what we are doing and seeing in Haiti.

 

January 20, 2010

As of today, we have donated the funds raised from the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund to three different beneficiaries: Baptist Haiti Mission, Samaritan's Purse, and Save the Children totaling $35,000.

For more about these organizations, see our Beneficiaries page.

Thank you for your generous support.

January 20, 2010

Morning Update

Baptist Mission Hospital -- Fermathe, Haiti

We got to bed late last night after ward surgery - sleeping 14 people in a house on the hospital grounds. Early this morning, we were awakened to violent shaking, It seemed to last a minute but probably only 15 of seconds or so. It felt like someone was shaking me to wake up. Within seconds, hundreds of people throughout the hospital were wailing. The memories of the loss of children and crushing buildings are still so raw for those suffering already, this aftershock was a grim reminder of the pain and suffering they've been through over the past week. With a single aftershock, things settled down after an hour. No one is hurt here, but it is still psychologically damaging, and those wounds will take much longer to heal.

  

 

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