March 5, 2010

by Bill Frist, M.D.

The Leading Child Killers No One Is Talking About

Which two diseases kill the most children worldwide? If you guessed AIDS, malaria, or measles, you're wrong.  Pneumonia and diarrhea claim the lives of more children under age 5 than those three diseases combined and account for over 30% of child deaths worldwide.

Pneumonia and diarrhea kill more children than any other disease - yet most people are unaware that this common illness has such a profound impact on the world's children.  Every day, 10,000 children die from pneumonia and diarrhea despite the fact that affordable prevention and treatment options exist. For millions of children around the world, these diseases could be prevented with vaccines and medicines that cost less than $10.

The real tragedy is that we have the tools to prevent most of these deaths but lack the political will to make their use a priority.  That's why Save the Children and GAVI have teamed up to continue raising the visibility of the biggest killers of children.

If the U.S. Government were to lead a global campaign to get pneumonia and diarrhea treatment to children living in just six countries - India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo - we would see the single biggest reduction in child mortality of our lifetime - and we would be that much closer to achieving Millennium Development Goal 4 - to reduce child mortality by 2/3 by 2015.

You can help fight the leading killers of children and make a real difference in the lives of children around the world - here is how:

  • Vote for Save the Children and Gavi's life-saving idea:

     Fight the Leading Killers of Children - Urge U.S. to Invest in Child Health

Two-month-old Damon is one example of how basic health services can save children's lives.  Damon lives in a small impoverished village in Malawi, nine miles away from the nearest health facility. When Damon was 5 days old, he suddenly stopped breastfeeding and started crying.  He was weak, had a high fever, a fast pulse and short breaths. Fortunately, his mother Zione, did not have to carry Damon miles to get medical care, because a trained community health worker was right there in her community to evaluate the little boy's condition and provide antibiotics. Prompt attention from this health worker, who then referred the baby to a hospital, very likely saved Damon from a tragic death.

Show your support for the world's children and vote for US leadership against the leading killers of children. Vote today and help ensure this issue is presented to the Obama Administration and's one million supporters. Help children who cannot vote for themselves.


‘Big Kenny' Alphin, Culpeper's country music superstar
"I don't believe in getting off the playing field"
By Audrey T. Hingley

"Big Kenny" Alphin's energy puts most people half his age to shame. Alphin, 46, cheerfully admits to having "eight jobs," including overseeing his new Nashville-based music company and releasing a new solo CD, The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy. The kinetic singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed company CIO ("chief imagination officer") wears multiple hats onstage - and in real life.

"I don't believe in getting off the playing field," he says. "I think you do all you can till you can't do it anymore."

The Culpeper native burst onto the music scene in 2004 as one-half of the eclectic duo Big & Rich. He and musical partner John Rich took the music world by storm with their "country music without prejudice" fusing of country, rap and rock. Their success has produced four albums, sold-out concerts and a slew of awards.
In March, Rich released a solo CD, Son of a Preacher Man, on Warner Brothers, but Alphin has taken a different route.

"I got out of Warner completely as a solo artist and put my whole team together. I was at a place in my life where I didn't want to ask permission," he says. "Now I run my own show. If I'm sitting in L.A. and decide to cut a video tomorrow, I'll cut a video. You could never work like that in the normal label system, where everything had to go through some committee."

The video illustration is an apt one: That's just what Alphin did. In Los Angeles for meetings last May, he "decided to catch a perfect spring day in Virginia" and returned to his parents' large working cattle farm to film the video for Long After I'm Gone, his new single.
"No matter where I go, Virginia is still home. There's just something real comforting about being on the farm. I made the decision one day and did it the next," he says of the video featuring breathtaking vistas of his parents' lush farm and shots of Alphin with wife Christiev, son Lincoln, and parents Bill and Mary Alphin. "We wrote it, directed it and filmed it right there on the spot with no plan."

Alphin adds: "Farming has its ups and downs, but, boy, when I go back there and see it as everyone does in the video, I think it looks pretty doggone close to heaven. It really was quite an idyllic way to grow up."
The seeds of Alphin's success were sown as he was growing up with siblings Charleene, Robert and Wallace, overseen by parents who emphasized Christian faith, family and hard work.

"I never saw anybody around me with dust growing on them," Alphin admits. "My dad still works as hard as he can go."

Longtime farm employee George Ellis observes: "Kenny was determined not to be outdone. If somebody was lifting a bale of hay, he would roll 'em if he couldn't lift 'em."
By the time Alphin finished high school, he'd operated a variety of businesses. When he was in his early 20s, he ran a construction/development business until a real estate recession sent him into bankruptcy. Steve Southard, senior vice president with Virginia Community Bank in Culpeper, worked with Alphin then and recalls, "If you want to succeed, you can't be afraid to fail, and Ken was not afraid to fail. He always focused on the positive."

Close friend Paul Bates, who owns Bates Body & Repair, says, "Ken has always been the type of person who would go after what he set his mind to ... he would get these big ideas and not let up."

Bates remembers Alphin making a prosthetic arm for a high school physics project: "It had fingers on it, a motor to let the fingers move, and we fiberglassed it. ... His mind was just on a different level than most people."
Alphin's music career started after he was dared to sing at a Northern Virginia club. Afterward, a stranger asked if he wanted to join a band, and the die was cast. He moved to Nashville in 1994 and in 1995 inked a songwriting/music publishing deal. A 1998 recording deal with Hollywood Records ultimately fizzled, but when Alphin met Rich something clicked.

Mary Alphin admits there were times she and Bill wondered if Kenny was fooling himself: "We heard he was living off credit cards. John later said Kenny had $140,000 in credit card debt, and he wasn't far behind [when Big & Rich hit]. But Ken never said anything to us about it [money problems]."

Bates recalls, "He always had an optimistic outlook. Sometimes I'd think he just doesn't want to accept the fact that he's a little too old to go to Nashville. The odds were against him. But Ken has the gift of gab and charisma; he could strike up a conversation with anybody. I think that has a lot to do with his success."
His father also modeled later-life career success, beginning a 20-year insurance career in his mid-40s while continuing to farm.

Alphin, whose first marriage ended in divorce, married stylist Christiev Carothers in 2005, becoming a stepfather to her two sons from a previous marriage. Friends say the birth of son Lincoln, now 4, has "grounded" Alphin.

Asked if parenthood has changed his perception of his own parents, Alphin replies with a hearty laugh: "Heck, yeah. I gave my parents hell! I was a kid; I didn't know. I love my wife completely, and Lincoln ... it's a crazy kind of love I've never experienced and can't explain. It [parenthood] has made me stronger and more enlightened to the world around me."

He's joined musicians such as Sheryl Crow in Music Saves Mountains, an effort to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia and is helping fund doctors in Appalachia via a nonprofit called Hope Through Healing Hands. Moved by the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Alphin is also involved with My Sister's Keeper, a nonprofit whose projects include a Sudanese school for girls and medical clinic.

Alphin says to fellow boomers, "I'm sure everybody goes through discouragement; I'm not saying I haven't. But the way you deal with it is the choices you make. If someone wants to talk themselves out of something, they'll find a reason. But if someone wants to go after their life's passion, and that passion can also be their life's work, that's a pretty good thing. I firmly believe that anyone is capable of finding that place in life."

Audrey T. Hingley is a Richmond-based freelance writer.

BGA Donates over $1800 to HTHH Haiti Disaster Relief Fund

by Jenny Dyer, Ph.D.

Battleground Academy's Middle School, Grades 5-8, collected over $1,800 from their students as a fundraiser for Haiti Relief efforts. The students gave a minimum donation of $5 for the privilege of wearing blue jeans to school (in exchange for their typical uniform attire).

Jonathan Reiss and Harris Jones, seventh graders at BGA Middle School seen in the photo above, presented the check this week to Senator Frist.

Sen. Frist told the young men that this money would be used for tetanus vaccines (via Mobile Medical Disaster Relief) and fuel for helicopters (via Samaritan Air), to name a couple of ways the money is being spent right now.

The BGA Haiti Fundraiser was led by Keli Kennedy the Community Service Coordinator.

February 23, 2010

by Bill Frist, M.D.

Haiti Fund Update 

            As of this week, we've been able to donate over $115,000 of your generous gifts to provide immediate assistance for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Most recently, beneficiaries have included Missionary Flights International, which has provided air transport during this time of crisis in Haiti, and Mobile Medical Disaster Relief, which will be purchasing tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccinations for over 6500 children in Port au Prince.

            Below are three great photos of how our monies have been spent already. Love Everybody has used our gift to purchase a water purification machine, Samaritan Air has provided transport for mothers and children to clinics to receive immediate aid, and Promise for Haiti has purchased an autoclave or sterilizer for their clinic in Pignon. We will continue to demonstrate exactly how your dollars have been used as our beneficiaries report back with photographs of how your gift has been spent. 


Annual Report 2009 

            Our Annual Report 2009 will be published this month! We are excited to showcase our programmatic efforts from last year with measureable results from your investment. Over 2200 patients were seen, 175 community health workers/medical personnel/leaders were trained, and 20 training courses were provided to clinics in Guatemala, Kenya, and Rwanda. We are proud of our first class of Global Health Leaders.


            For 2010, we will be supporting 13 Global Health Leaders. We are looking forward to working with new schools and new students including those from Lipscomb University and Belmont University. Our leaders are standing in the gap of the critical need for health workers in developing communities. They are bravely going into clinics, caring for patients, and training health workers to enhance and sustain the health care of children, women, and families.

Support these Global Health Leaders' work today.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Jenny Dyer


(615) 386-0045

NASHVILLE, TN - Hope Through Healing Hands, a Nashville-based global health nonprofit organization, announced today the delivery of over 260 beds for relief efforts in Haiti.  The beds will go to clinics in some of the hardest hit areas of Haiti to help provide needed care and rest to those still recovering from injuries sustained from the January earthquake.  The beds were donated by Huntsville Hospital in Alabama, with special help and coordination from the Executive Director of the South Central Tennessee Development District, Jerry Mansfield and staff.

Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, the Chairman of Hope Through Healing Hands said, "I am thrilled that our group was able to help facilitate the delivery of these beds to those in need in Haiti.  When I was down in Haiti following the earthquake, I saw tremendous need for supplies like these, and I thank Huntsville Hospital, Fayetteville Rotary Club, and Jerry Mansfield for providing these beds."

Hope Through Healing Hands' partner, Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and from individual donors and then distributes shoes free of charge to people in need, has helped provide transportation for the beds through Operation Compassion, an international relief organization based in Cleveland, TN that has provided transportation for medical equipment needed in Haiti. The total donation of beds consisted of 256 Hill-Rom 850 hospital beds and 7 Stryker Critical Care beds. 

# # #

 Hope Through Healing Hands is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to improve the quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Since January, Hope Through Healing Hands has raised over $125,000 for relief efforts in Haiti.  For more information, please visit

February 16, 2009

On January 3rd, Big Kenny was awoken with a strong emotion. Thirty minutes later it was the words to "Cry With You." Big Kenny worked on "Cry With You" while planning his departure to Haiti to help search for Walt who was in the country working on several renewable energy projects at the time. It features a broad range of spirit and talent who came into The Last Dollar Studio to track and complete the song while Big Kenny was away. The song includes the First String Orchestra directed by Carl Marsh, recorded at Oceanway Studios the day prior to Big Kenny's departure to Haiti, spoken word by Senator Bill Frist just back from Haiti himself, Better Than Ezra members Kevin Griffin and Travis McNabb, Glotown Artist Damien Horne, Lo Carter as well as many others.

Because of the many Fan requests, if you wish to make a donation to the "Love Everybody Fund", all purchase amounts over the $1 "Cry With You" track price, will go directly into the Love Everybody Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. We hope this simplifies the giving process and your many wishes to HELP. Thank You.



February 10, 2010

Three Updates: Reflections and Reports

We continue to receive reports from friends and acquaintances and partners who are still in the field in Haiti. We want to share three of those stories today.

A Surgeon's Reflections, Written on a Plane Returning from Haiti

Dick Furman, M.D. -- Samaritan's Purse

            ...I don't know how their memories will affect me as time goes on.  But now it is difficult not to compare them with life, as we know it.  They will not sleep in their homes because of the after quakes.  At night they still cry out and moan and wail.  The stench remains in the air as you drive by building that collapsed.  And then there are the patients that survived and we operated on who are in despair with nowhere to go and loved ones dead.  We had our surgical team meeting this morning after which I made my last walk through the hospital and left patients I will remember for the rest of my life.  I am on the plane flying home as I think back over what was the most horrific time I have ever experienced in my life.  I have never seen such suffering.  I have never seen so many people go through so much sorrow. 

            It surely looked different on TV.  Watching it, you could get the feeling of what the earthquake was like.  You could get a feel of the destruction of buildings and houses and stores.  You could even get some insight into the terrible devastating feeling the people are going through.  But until you have examined a patient who was in the kitchen while her husband and four children were in the next room, who felt her third floor apartment begin to shake and sway and less than sixty seconds later; her family was dead and she had a slab of concrete roof lying on her legs and pelvis  -  until you are a part of that, you can't really understand what it was all about.  We operated on her and for the next week, every time I examined her at her bedside she would begin shaking her head and begin weeping.  Last night, my last night in Haiti, I left our quarters and slipped down to the hospital just before going to bed and prayed at her bedside, gently placing my hand on her head.  I didn't know how to pray, what to ask.  I realized we had done everything medically which could be done and only God's love for this woman could give her any comfort.  Our surgery was going to be successful.  The physical part of her problem would be healed but that part of her desperation was minimal to her over-all suffering.  So I prayed a verse, which came to mind.  I prayed that God would give her a peace that surpasses all human understanding that would guard her heart and her mind through Jesus Christ during this terrible time in her life.  I finished my prayer and stood by her bed and just looked at her hardened face and thought of what she has been through and wondered how long she would suffer before she realized the peace of God.

            I walked through the other wards.  Most of the patients were asleep.  I could not speak Creole nor understand it.  I would stop at the foot of certain beds and give a nod at a particular patient I had gotten to know in a very unusual way.  They didn't try to speak.  I would stand a few minutes looking at them and ask God to give them that same peace that only he could give.  I would just touch their foot or pat their leg and stand with them a moment just to let them know that even though I wouldn't see them again here on earth, I cared. 

            I stopped at the first ber in the second ward.  He had pulled his sheet up over his face.  I wanted him to see me but didn't want to awaken him even though he was one of my favorite patients.  He was a large man; a policeman, in his mid thirties.  We had put some metal pins through his broken bones on his right leg and then stabilized it with an external brace.  He had a wife and two young daughters.  His wife was giving the girls a bath when the quake hit.  For two days, the he was trapped, not knowing whether his wife and children were alive or not.  Even when some men found him and pounded the concrete off his body to free him, he did not know.  He didn't know for sure they had died until he looked back at the rest of the house and realized the slab of roof had completely crushed the bathroom portion of his home.  He had been with us three days in the hospital but didn't speak much to anybody.  I can only imagine what keeps going through his mind.  I can't imagine how I would react if my wife and all my children were suddenly taken away from me. 

            And a few beds down were the man with the little three-year-old boy who had lost part of his arm.  The man's wife and two children had died in the quake.  He kept telling me through the interrupter that his wife was thirty-two years old.  Thirty-two he kept saying. I remember him sitting and holding his boy all day in his lap as if he wanted to make certain he didn't loose him.  We had tried to discharge him earlier in the day but he had no money and nowhere to go.  At least at the hospital they received one meal a day.  We needed his bed for other patients but yet couldn't make him leave for some reason...

(Dick has a longer reflection of multiple patients. These were just some stories that remind you of the families torn apart in a moment's time.)

Reflections from a Clinical Research Nurse Trainer, Vanderbilt University -- at GHESKIO Clinic: Port au Prince

by Janet Nicotera, RN BSN

I want to let you know I am alive and well at GHESKIO. The main building the one built more than 20 yrs ago when our collaboration began is not safe but that has not stopped the work. Administration moved, research trial patients are seen outside under the trees and every inch is utilized. Two field hospitals are also on the university side so it sounds a lot like the TV show MASH all day. We have almost 6000 refugees, 1000 under 5 yrs old. I had not put my bags away and Dr. Pape had given me three new tasks..I love that about him. We are currently preparing for two post op sites and another research site so patients can have more access to care. Life goes on here. I am so grateful to be with these amazing people and learn from their tenacity.
Best, Jan

From Save the Children, a HTHH Beneficiary of Haiti Disaster Relief Funding (as of 2/10/2010)

Reading Material: SC produced this prior to the earthquake assessing the needs of Haiti last Fall, October 2009 -- Modernizing Foreign Assistance, Insights from the Field: Haiti

Our efforts in Haiti continue to make a big difference for families and children. The mass food distribution which we are managing with the World Food Program at 2 of the 19 locations in Port au Prince continues to go well (target 280.000 beneficiaries). The Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) center and helpline was set up over the weekend at the UN logs base and is now operational as child separation and protection remain key concerns. Community registration workers were trained and began registering children in Port-au-Prince on Sunday in coordination with UNICEF, IRC and ICRC. Fully operational sub-offices in Leagone and Jacmel have been established to support our growing response in those areas. Further sub-offices in Petit Goave and Port au Prince are being established. With rains imminent, the distribution of shelter material and the establishment of planned settlements still remain among the main priorities for assistance, with sanitation and control of vector-borne diseases becoming a major concern at many temporary sites.

General Updates:

* The Government of Haiti reports that the death toll may be as high as 200,000 people, with an additional 300,000 people injured by the quake.

* To date, seven organized settlements have been established for 42,000 displaced people, with an additional 460,000 in spontaneous settlements throughout PAP.

* The Ministry of Education is in the process of assessing 6,000 schools and estimates that over 400,000 children are displaced.

Our most recent activities are as follows:

Total number of beneficiaries reached so far: 297,591

Total number of beneficiaries we intend to reach: 800,000

Non Food Items (NFIs)/Shelter:

* SC has reached a total of 9,611 families with NFIs to date. 500 families in Leogane and 511 families in Jacmel were provided with blankets, hygiene kits and other NFIs in the last three days.

* SC shelter activities will be scaled up in the coming weeks, with an interagency assessment to identify tent sites in Jacmel already underway.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH):

* To date, SC WASH interventions have reached more than 60,000 people. This includes the construction of 156 emergency latrines, 90 bathing areas, and hand washing facilities at 20 latrines.

* Additionally, the first of an expected 150 WASH facilities was installed at a Child Friendly Space on Monday.

* SC is leading an inter-agency WASH assessment in 5 districts in Leogane and conducted training for mass hygiene promotion activities set to begin this week in Port-au-Prince.

Health and Nutrition:

* 14 SC mobile health teams have seen a total of 10,630 patients at 45 locations to date. This includes 2,760 people in Port-au-Prince, 1,143 people in Leogane and 6,727 people in Jacmel. Additionally, SC health agents are equipped with oral rehydration solution to treat cases of diarrhea.

* SC health teams completed MUAC screening for 125 children, of which 7 were found to have severe acute malnutrition and 13 had moderate malnutrition. Additionally, SC, in collaboration with Ministry of Health, completed a measles vaccination campaign along with MUAC screening in Jacmel.

*SC is leading the infant and child feeding program at the national level and is supplying safer breast milk substitutes (BMS) for infants who cannot be breastfed.

Child Protection:

* The Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) center and helpline was set up over the weekend at the UN logs base. Community registration workers were trained and began registering children in Port-au-Prince on Sunday in coordination with UNICEF, IRC and ICRC.

* The sector specific in-depth assessment is being conducted this week in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel by SC trained volunteers. 10 additional staff will be trained for an upcoming assessment in Leogane.

* SC also held a two day workshop for CFS trainers, with 70 participants from 25 organizations.


* So far, SC food distributions have reached over 120,000 beneficiaries, including 72,000 children. This number will continue to increase as distributions in Port-au-Prince continue over the next week.

* SC distributed 25kg bags of rice to 1,700 families daily over the weekend in each of the two locations, Martissant and Tabarre, as part of the 14-day World Food Program collaboration.

* The cash programming learning group led by SC is being officially recognized by the Early Recovery cluster and Cash for Work programming is expected to begin this week.


*Of the 29 schools that were a part of SC's Rewrite the Future Campaign, 5 were totally destroyed, 14 were partially affected with varying levels of damage, 8 were not structurally affected and information was unavailable for 2. Only one of these schools has started to function.

* SC will conduct assessments in 4 zones in Leogane to identify sites for temporary learning spaces.


* Wellness sessions with staff members continue and a long-term strategy will be issued soon.

* Additionally, 70 tents, 300 sleeping bags and 300 sleeping mats for national staff arrived in Port-au-Prince on Friday, providing some much-needed relief.



February 8, 2010
by Bill Frist

The work in Haiti continues, and there are still so many suffering. It is difficult to see if help is actually getting through at times with so much devastation and need. If you've followed my blog and twitter feed, you read some of the amazing things that have happened down there during this short time. There are hundreds of stories like these, but I wanted to share one with you now and thank the efforts of so many to make at least one success story.

I traveled to Haiti with Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, who had their first physician on the ground on January 13. Their work was tremendous and immediate. While I was there, they had built up to a 55-person Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART), of which 21 were medical professionals. That number has only continued to grow since.

We quickly found that the orthopedic needs were tremendous. There were so many fractures and orthopedic injuries, that the supplies were quickly running out. Through our network, Dr. Dick Furman of Samaritan's Purse collected a list of needs, and we shared them on the web. As a result, we were able to connect with a major orthopedic manufacturing company named Synthes who donated all the supplies that were needed, including:

Small fragment sets (3.5 mm screws)
Large fragment sets (4.5mm screws)
External fixators--large size rods, metal connectors, and Shantz screws

After the call was put out for needs, Synthes quickly responded, sending a large cargo plane down to Port Au Prince full of needed supplies, both for Samaritan's Purse and others in the field. Because of the efforts of the dedicated staff at Synthes, I am certain that many more Haitians are on their way to recovery from the physical scars of this terrible tragedy.

I think this story is one of many going on currently, and I am going to try to find more to share with you. You can see that thanks to the power of the internet, desperate needs were identified and met very quickly, and lives were saved.

Keep your thoughts, prayers and efforts focused on Haiti. The need is great, and will continue to be for quite some time.

**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


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