Operation Smile supporter and actor Harrison Ford flew his Cessna 208 here to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, late this afternoon to help airlift a new team of Operation Smile medical volunteers and supplies to Hinche, Haiti, where they will be providing much-needed surgery and treatment to earthquake victims.
It was a challenging trip for Mr. Ford and his co-pilot, Terry Bender, who had to take a few detours to avert the weather that is devastating much of the United States. Our team of 15 American, Canadian and Danish Operation Smile medical professionals includes plastic surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologists, eight nurses and other seasoned veterans – all chomping at the bit to sweep into action in Hinche, where children and families have been waiting for weeks to receive treatment.
Mr. Ford will begin shuttling the team – along with critically needed supplies and medicines from Santa Domingo to Hinche – saving the team a rigorous and exhausting drive that could take two days.
“It is an amazing feeling to be a part of a special team to help these disaster victims,” Norrie Oelkers, our clinical coordinator said. “We are so anxious to get started. Patients are waiting right now for life-changing surgery.”
Operation Smile has been asked by Partners in Health to help manage the tremendous patient load at their clinic in Hinche. Since Partners in Heath is not a surgical entity, they have asked our team of skilled surgeons to perform the much needed surgeries.
Our team is having a little dinner tonight in Santa Domingo – and we are so anxious to get to work tomorrow. But we are not nearly as anxious as those patients in Hinche who are waiting for the help our teams can provide.
Team leader Dr. Craig Merrell, a plastic surgeon from Suffolk, Virginia, has assured us that the first team in tomorrow morning will go to work immediately.
“It’s such a blessing to go there so we can treat people who are suffering from infections, burns, and other injuries from the earthquake and other causes. Right now, this clinic lacks some essential equipment needed to treat these patients. They are literally waiting for us to get there tomorrow to save lives. First up is a 6 year-old burn victim who is critically ill.”
Operation Smile still has a team in Font Parisian doing work in what many are calling “war zone” conditions, as well as a team of 10 Operation Smile volunteers on the USNS Comfort. The number of teams and the scope of the work will continue to expand.
Mr. Ford’s Cessna’s wheels go up at 7:15 tomorrow morning. We’ll be in surgery by noon.