Yesterday I had my first TV appearance, on CNN. The footage was shot on Thursday, January 14th at Merlin (Medical Emergency Relief International) head office here in London. Richard Villar, the orthopaedic surgeon featured in the short video, is a very well-respected surgeon based in London who was also part of a Merlin team responding to the Pakistan earthquake of 2005.
He is already performing surgical operations in Haiti after helping determine needs for our medical response in the area. The larger medical team, which includes experienced surgeons, A&E; (aka ER) specialists, an anaesthetist, and nurses, arrived today in Haiti. 4800kg of cargo should arrive tomorrow for them to set up an operations theatre in a set of large tents. Getting all that stuff loaded onto the plane kept four of us in a cargo warehouse at Gatwick Airport until 4am yesterday! Then two of us were awake again at 630am to get the team to the airport for check-in, along with 31 bags to check in, filled with survival gear (tents, sleeping bags, ready meals, water filters, etc) and medical equipment.
The check-in process was surprisingly easy for 11 people with 31 bags to check in. The airline (a Thomas Cook charter flight, with ground operations contracted to Servisair) assigned a check-in staff member just for us, named Eric. Eric was friendly and efficient, so it took us only about 10 minutes to get all the passports processed, and another 10 to get the bags all tagged and down the conveyor belt. Not only that, but they sent a suited representative down to make sure everything was running smoothly for us, and he gave the team access to the Servisair lounge to relax before their long flight to the Dominican Republic and subsequent drive across the border to Haiti.
It’s amazing how generous some people, and some companies, can be when there is a need. Thomas Cook Airlines has been terrifically generous and helpful in coordinating staff travel and cargo transport for us down to the Dominican Republic, and multiple hospitals and medical equipment suppliers have donated or given us big discounts on much-needed medical supplies when we asked.
It’s certainly a very interesting, and extremely educational, experience to be involved in an emergency response like this one. When we start getting some stories back from our team in the field, I’ll probably post one or two of them up here. If you want to read about the team’s daily activities, including a bridge collapsing directly in front of them right before they crossed, click here.