The man walked up to Teresa Williams at a children's hospital in Haiti having recently survived deadly Hurricane Matthew that ravaged his country.
"Do you love children?" he asked.
"Of course," she said. "I love children."
"Then will you bring my daughter back to the United States with you?"
Williams, a nurse practitioner at Riverside's Warsaw Medical Arts, didn't know then what to say.
"They want so much to create a better life for their children they are willing to give them up," Williams said.
But she did know what to do. Keep helping. Keep treating. Keep making a difference one patient at a time.
Thanks to the generosity of team members at Riverside Tappahannock Hospital, medical supplies provided by Riverside Health System and the donations of the community, Williams was able to travel to Haiti on a medical mission trip earlier this year alongside the non-profit "Loving Haiti, One Child at a Time."
Every cent, every single supply donated, "really did help. I want everyone at Riverside to know that. They'll probably never really know because you don't truly understand it until you are there. But being there, bringing these supplies, spending time with these folks, really touches your heart. And the generosity of people here made it happen."
Planning the Trip
Each year, Williams brings in nurse practitioner students from all over Virginia to Warsaw Medical Arts to complete their medical rotations. This year, the students working with Williams included Leah Peyton, founder of "Loving Haiti, One Child at a Time."
"Loving Haiti, One Child at a Time" began in 2010 and takes three to four trips to Haiti each year, bringing medical support to orphanages and hospitals throughout the impoverished nation. Peyton founded the organization while also working as an emergency department nurse.
"Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world," Peyton reports on the group's online fundraising page via GoFundMe. "There are children dying from diseases and infection that are easily treated with antibiotics. Fevers that could be treated with Advil or Tylenol end up causing dehydration that can become life threatening. Something as simple as antibiotics, Advil, or Tylenol makes the difference between life and death. There is a great need in this country and 'Loving Haiti, One Child at a Time' is going to make a huge impact."
As Peyton was finishing up her rotation this fall, Williams said, Haiti was struck by Hurricane Matthew, killing hundreds, injuring even more and leaving complete devastation in its wake.
"Leah mentioned to me on one of her practicum days that she felt like she needed to go," Williams said. "I told her that I'd go with her and had some other folks that go with me on other mission trips that would likely want to help, too."
Within 24 hours, Williams and Peyton had rallied a team of seven people to head to Haiti November 9-16 and the support from the health system.
Sally Ryan, Senior VP of Riverside Medical Group, helped Williams coordinate with Riverside's system director of operations and logistics supply chain management who was able to secure 11 suitcases worth of medical supplies.
"We had everything from gloves to suture kits to catheters," Williams said. "It was truly amazing the supplies we were able to bring, mainly things for acute care, wounds, dressing supplies, antibiotics, IV fluids, baby formula. The list goes on."
Then, Esther Desimini, Vice President and Administrator of Riverside Tappahannock Hospital enlisted the help of Dolly Loomis, Volunteer Coordinator, to organize a 50/50 raffle that raised $500 to offset the cost of bringing the supplies to Haiti.
The Mission Work
On the ground in Haiti, the mission team worked in the Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-au-Prince.
"That's where a majority of the medical supplies that Riverside donated went," Williams said. "It's one of the larger hospitals in Haiti and had taken on a lot of the critically ill."
The team then visited Mother Teresa's Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince –one of the most impactful parts of the trip, Williams said, given that in Haiti there is an estimated one doctor for every 50,000 people, leaving children the most vulnerable.
"We brought more supplies there, especially baby formula," Williams said. "Many of the children's mothers died in the hurricane and others had mothers whose milk dried up after the hurricane because of the storm."
The children there, Williams said, faced dehydration, respiratory issues and skin infections.
"There was just so much to do," Williams said. "On other mission trips you can see you made a difference before you leave. In Haiti, they just need so much help. It's overwhelming. It's the most impoverished area I've ever been to and it's why we are going back."
Williams and "Loving Haiti, One Child at a Time" are planning a return trip to Haiti in February.
"The people there love their children," Williams said. "They have a great sense of family and community. They just don't have the resources they need."
Published: January 6, 2017