St. Mary Parish prepares to send third medical mission to Haiti

St. Mary Parish is planning to send a medical mission for the third time since 2010 to its sister parish, Ste. Therese, in Marbial, Haiti.

Currently, the group expects to have 10 members travel to Haiti from March 2 through March 9 to provide immunizations, surgeries and a medical clinic to the people of Ste. Therese.

The Medical Mission is still about $3,000 shy of the funds needed to accomplish the trip — despite generous holiday donations from scores of parishioners and the Bridgeport Rotary Club Foundation.

"Medical mission members all pay for their own airfare — except two who are currently interns at Bridgeport Hospital and do not currently have the means to pay," said Doctor Richard J. Garvey, senior attending general surgeon at Bridgeport Hospital, and medical director for the mission. "About 66% of the costs of the mission are associated with the cost of a surgical facility in the city of Jacmel, and medicines.

"The other third of the cost," Garvey continued, "is round-trip travel from Port au Prince to Marbial and then on to Jacmel for the three members of the surgical team along with room and board for the medical team members. The seven who remain in Marbial will stay at the parish, with the women staying in the convent of the sisters who serve Ste. Therese, and the men in another dormitory building.

The three team members in Jacmel stay in the surgical center where they can monitor patients who stay overnight before traveling back the next day over the riverbed to their families to free space for others awaiting surgery.

In addition to the medical mission, St. Mary also supports Ste. Therese by raising funds, sending resources and providing aid with a focus on education, clean water, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.

This is the second year for tetanus, polio and tuberculosis inoculations. Doctor Garvey has again arranged with Haitian health officials responsible for Jacmel and the surrounding areas to provide the St. Mary team with over 300 doses of the vaccines. The shots for tetanus – a disease with high mortality rates in Haiti and throughout the developing world — will be administered primarily to children under five years of age and women of child-bearing age by Dr. Meredith Williams, director of pediatrics, Cornell-Scott Hill Medical Center in New Haven.

The children are susceptible to the 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.

As the crow flies, Ste. Therese, with of a population of approximately 60,000 in a highly mountainous region, is less than 20 miles from Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.

The trip between the two takes about one and a half hours in four wheel drive vehicles, due in part to the lack of direct roads — making it a 60-mile route — and in part due to the state of the roads.

The last 10 miles of the trip take place across a river bed that is only passable in the dry season, which dictates the timing of the medical mission in the first quarter of the year. During the wet season in Haiti — from April to December — the river bed is impassable.

"The first full day at Ste. Therese is a Sunday, which will begin with a 6 a.m. Mass," noted Rev. Aidan N. Donahue, pastor of St. Mary Parish. "Following the services, medical team members will identify candidates for surgery. Over the next five days Dr. Garvey will perform about 30 operations, primarily hernia repair surgery, at Klinik Pa Nous in Jacmel.

"As during the 2010 and 2012 visits, a medical clinic will operate on the grounds of Ste. Therese Parish, providing medical care, medications, medical supplies and vitamins to hundreds of people," Donahue said

The parish had planned a 2011 medical mission which had to be canceled due to a cholera outbreak.

Those who wish to support the St. Mary Twinning Committee’s efforts may give securely online by visiting and clicking on "Online Giving" at the top the page or by writing a check to St. Mary Parish with “ Haiti ” in the memo line and mailing it St. Mary, 72 Gulf St., Milford , CT 06460-4811.