Rockville doctor shares Haiti experience with upcounty group
Sheehan plans to return to Haiti in 2011
The pictures were chilling: Haitians learning to live without their amputated limbs.
Julie Andre, 24, of Gaithersburg, watched the photos taken by Dr. Terrence Sheehan and other volunteers flash onto a large projector screen Monday night. Sheehan, chief medical officer of Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland in Rockville shared the images with about a dozen people at the Upcounty Health Care Alliance, including Andre.
"I was glad he came here to share his experiences and pictures," Andre said after the meeting at the Germantown Library. "We need more people volunteering around the world and in our communities."
A team of eight, including physical and occupational therapists and nurses from the Rockville rehabilitation hospital, traveled to Haiti on March 12 for 10 days to help some of the people injured in the January earthquake.
The team from Montgomery County used vacation time to make the mission trip to physically rehabilitate Haitians, Sheehan said. He had been to Haiti several times before the earthquake and plans to return in 2011 to help more Haitians who lost limbs and suffered spinal cord injuries in the earthquake.
Sheehan was approached about forming the team by the nonprofit Project Medishare for Haiti, he said.
The bright lights, state of the art medical equipment and sturdy building Sheehan is used to working in were replaced in Haiti by blackouts, makeshift wheelchairs and tents. One photo showed a young Haitian boy in a wheelchair made of a plastic lawn chair, wheels from a bicycle and a shopping cart. This and other images of a nation getting by with the bare necessities are why Sheehan plans to go back and help.
"I had always gotten on a plane and gone down to Haiti for a week and that was it," Sheehan said. "Part of my work is taking care of people who are in need. This last trip was different."
Haitian native Matchelle Bristol accompanied Sheehan on the trip. Seeing her homeland in ruins was a sad moment for Bristol, 39, of Germantown, an admissions supervisor at the hospital. Translating Creole and English for doctors and patients was her main responsibility.
Bristol had to tell one woman that her 14-year-old daughter's leg would be amputated, she said. Other translators had previously told the woman her daughter only needed a small operation.
"You could see the sadness in the people's eyes," Bristol said by phone Monday. "It made me grateful for what I have."
U.S. Air donated airplane tickets for the recent trip, but Sheehan said he will not get donated tickets for his return in 2011. Instead he believes private donations and fundraisers will pay for his next trip.
Watching Haitians get by on very little after the earthquake is something Sheehan said he will always remember.
"It was a lesson about life. I was taken back by the despair," he said. "To think they are already in a land of poverty, now they will really be at the bottom."