Local church brings inocculations to Haiti

The second medical mission of the St. Mary Twinning Committee to the church’s sister parish in Haiti accomplished all of its primary goals, foremost of which was the addition of immunizations to its past efforts.

The team of 13 medical professionals and two committee members from Milford provided care to 1,500 patients at Ste. Therese parish in Marbial, Haiti, earlier this year. Surgeons performed 20 surgeries, the majority for hernias, and one of which involved the removal of a five-pound fibroid tumor, saving a woman’s life. Team members also attended to a baby suffering from burns over 70% of his body.
“The second medical mission was an absolute success,” said Dr. Richard Garvey, senior attending general surgeon at Bridgeport Hospital and medical director for the mission. “We provided quality medical care to essentially the same number of patients as we treated two years ago and added important immunizations. All who have contributed to these missions can take pride in the fact that their efforts have, and will, save the lives of many of our Haitian brothers and sisters.”
In addition to providing general medical and surgical services to parishioners, as took place during the first mission in 2010, Dr. Garvey arranged with Haitian health officials responsible for Jacmel and the surrounding areas to provide the St. Mary team with more than 600 doses of the tetanus, polio and tuberculosis vaccines. Inoculations for tetanus, a disease with high mortality, are rarely available in remote areas like Marbial, which is 11 miles — a 1-1/2 hour drive along a riverbed — from Jacmel, the nearest city.
Dr. Williams single-handedly gave multiple inoculations to 326 people. Children under five years of age and women of child-bearing age were the primary recipients. The children are susceptible to infection because they play on the ground and sleep on packed earth floors where they are likely to encounter tetanus. Many women lose their lives during childbirth due to the rudimentary and unsanitary conditions they face.
To support the tetanus immunization campaign, the mission brought 50 “birth kits” — assembled by the children of St. Mary School — which included all the necessities for a new baby and mother. The committee sent an additional 50 to 60 kits in April, a month following the medical mission, in an international shipment organized through the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas, based in Nashville, Tenn.
The medical mission also brought reading glasses of a variety of magnifying strengths to the Haitian parish. In the agricultural economy of the remote Haitian village, many find it difficult to see small seeds as they sow them. Likewise, numerous parishioners make their own clothing as well as garments to sell at weekly markets, and threading needles can be difficult.
The St. Mary Twinning Committee medical mission, which enjoys the blessing and support of the new pastor of St. Mary Parish, the Rev. Aidan N. Donahue, included nine women and seven men, six of whom speak Creole (and some French) — the languages of Haiti. In addition to Dr. Garvey and Mike Mercurio, chairman of the St. Mary Twinning Committee, Joan Calendrillo, director of St. Mary’s Pre-School and a member of St. Agnes Parish, was once again a member of the medical team.
Committee members also had the opportunity to check on the status of the 625 systems that are part of a clean water initiative, Gift of Water, that the committee launched in 2010. Gift of Water is a not-for-profit water purification program that has been operating primarily in Haiti for more than 15 years.
The self-sustaining program relies on a very simple system using two buckets, chlorine tablets, filters and activated carbon. It includes initial set-up, establishment and training of a local water committee and a local community water technician.
Those who wish to support the St. Mary Twinning Committee’s efforts may write a check to St. Mary Parish with “ Haiti ” in the memo line and mail it St. Mary, 72 Gulf Street, Milford, CT 06460-4811.