Mission of Mercy: Carson couple returns from helping in Haiti
It was an easy decision for David and Kelly Fluitt when the phone call came that Monday morning.
A week had passed since the Jan. 12 earthquake leveled much of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, killing untold thousands and leaving many more injured and in need of medical care. The Fluitts were offered two spots on a medical mission to Haiti.
David, 52, a Raley’s pharmacy manager, and Kelly, 46, a nurse practitioner with Carson Medical Group Family Practice, were going back to the country that helped spark their marriage and to the people that continue to inspire them.
“What we were just so amazed by was the hope of these people,” Kelly said from their Carson City home Tuesday, nearly a month after the 7.0 earthquake struck. “They were really stoic in terms of the amount of pain they’ve endured. Many, many amputations and just taking ibuprofen.”
The Fluitts returned to Carson City on Feb. 5 after 12 days in Haiti. The excursion was organized by Lumiere Medical Ministries, based in Gastonia, N.C., which helped send 12 medical professionals and a priest to Haiti.
When they arrived in the country, the Fluitts went to Kings Hospital in Port-au-Prince and stayed there for five days. They later made their way to another community hospital where dozens of patients lay in hallways waiting for care.
“It wasn’t glamorous,” David said.
While neither had much experience in operating rooms, they both did what they could to help doctors repair shattered limbs.
David said it was like standing in the presence of greatness. Surgeons were operating without X-rays and using instruments designed for a surgery performed without electricity. The anesthesiologist would mop blood off the floor after the operation.
The devastation and suffering was remarkable when the Fluitts arrived in the country by private jet, donated to the ministry by a race car company in North Carolina.
“You would drive past this building that had collapsed, there’s family members in there, and then right next to the building was a street vendor selling charcoal or fruit,” David said. “So it was business as usual.”
At one point, 70 people showed up looking for help. Doctors told the crowd that they were out of cold and flu medication, “and then this sort of hysterical laughter came about in the street,” David said.
At dinner that night, they got to talking about that reaction. A woman who had lived in Haiti all of her life explained, “You know, David, in Haiti there’s so much tragedy that occurs in our life and instead of crying, you laugh.”
That spirit is what brings the Fluitts back to Haiti. David has gone on two previous aid missions since 2005, and they both traveled to Haiti last July.
They now have an album filled with photos from their experiences in the country that helped lead to their year-and-a-half-old marriage.
David had brought his daughter into the Carson City clinic where Kelly was working as a nurse. He was getting ready to go on his second mission.
“So we started talking about it, and that became our dream together,” David said. “I was kind of hoping that she wouldn’t like it as much as she does.”
Kelly said their most recent trip gave them the chance to save lives and to help alleviate pain, if just temporarily. The question for them, as well as the rest of the world, is what comes next?
“It’s not something where you can just sweep in and do the work and get out, it’s going to require much, much more than that,” she said. “I think that’s what’s almost haunted us over the past couple days. We feel like we did some good work, but it’s just not enough. What can we do next?”
She recalls one memory that still resonates.
One woman, a Haitian nurse who had her arm amputated, needed help changing her dressings. As Kelly unwrapped the bandages she could tell she was causing the woman pain as she peeled gauze from her flesh. The woman declined pain medication.
Kelly said she did what she could to contain her tears, something she does for all patients. Later that night, Kelly wrote the woman a letter, telling her she was an inspiration.
The woman responded in a letter, written with the help of an interpreter: “I’m Ginette … and very proud of you that you think of me. I suffered, of course, but you encourage a lot to continue to live. I’m very happy that God bless you because you’re very encouraged person. I love you. Thanks a lot. Ginette. ”
Kelly is teary-eyed as she looks at the letter in her Carson City living room.
“Those are the blessings that we’ve received,” she said.