|Brian Kremer, a Ventura firefighter, Yveto Dorce, Brian Price, and Chad Brisendine in Haiti helping with the relief efforts. Yveto was their Haitian guide and Brian Price and Chad are from the Fresno Fire Dept|
Two Ventura Firefighters offer hope to Haiti
By Tracy Valentine
Nothing compares to what two Ventura firefighters saw during their volunteer relief efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake which currently ranks as the seventh deadliest natural disaster ever.Nothing compares.
Using their own money, the two Venturans flew to the Dominican Republic in separate teams as members of Firefighters for Christ to endure 10 days of unspeakable devastation to offer their expertise, prayers, and to deliver over a ton of medical supplies donated by fire companies.
For Mike Eggleston, a retired Ventura County firefighter who served the fire department for 30 years, nothing compares. Not even the devastation he saw in New Orleans where he volunteered after Hurricane Katrina.
Little can be said to explain the scope of how the people of Haiti still suffer.
Eggleston recounts what he saw during his trip February 2-11 as the worst he’s seen.
“Nothing can prepare a person for the massive destruction that we saw when we arrived in Port-au-Prince,” Eggleston said.
“Imagine everything you saw on TV combined with 90 degree temperatures and high humidity, the smell of many people in a confined area all trying desperately to get their lives back together with not a lot of hope,” he said.
The images of Haiti: four-story buildings pancaked to the ground, orphaned children, dirty air, even dirtier water, raw sewage, language barriers, nonexistent infrastructure, beds made of sheets laid over frames of branches or sticks.
The stink of death, even weeks after the earthquake, still blows through the city. The body count is as high as 230,000, and thousands of bodies, most of them in Port-au-Prince, still remain buried in the rubble. These bodies were once a child’s mother, someone’s father, or long-time friend.
Brian Kremer, a Ventura firefighter for 9 years, struggles to find the words to describe what he experienced during his trip with the first team from Firefighters for Christ who spent Jan. 21-Feb. 1 on the scene in Haiti.
“What I saw in Haiti was truly difficult to describe. We saw utter devastation and collapsed buildings for miles and miles,” Kremer said.
“When we arrived in Haiti, we were greeted by a Haitian guide who took us to a church compound in Carrfour, which is located a few miles west of Port-au-Prince.
“To our surprise, the first morning in Haiti, we attended a church service and found about 100
Haitians singing, dancing and praising God. They had drums, guitars, and a trumpet. It was amazing to see their passionate spirit amongst utter devastation. Many of them had just lost loved ones, and they still found a way to be thankful,” Kremer said.
Kremer also saw the contrast.
“I mostly worked at the clinic in Carrfour, and each day we saw between 300-500 patients. There were many people with traumatic injuries, and we mostly helped with cleaning wounds, applying fresh dressings, starting I.V.’s, and giving antibiotics to help fight infections,” he said.
Kremer’s team traveled dirt roads pitted with potholes to take severely injured patients to a make-shift hospital.
“We rented a driver with a Toyota truck for $20 a day to drive critical patients to a local field hospital,” he said.
Kremer saw broken bones, amputations, death.
“What really got to me, though, was not the traumatic injuries. It was a 12 year old boy named Patrick, whose parents had been killed in the earthquake,” Kremer said.
“Patrick was also trapped for about 20 minutes under the rubble and was rescued. Patrick was so traumatized that he was unable to eat, drink, or even speak for the two weeks following the earthquake. He had a distant gaze and would just stare off into the corner of the room. We were able to give him some I.V. fluids and he took a few sips of water,” he said.
“That incident made me realize that some of the worst injuries are not the physical injuries, but the emotional scars that will be with these people for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Both Kremer and Eggleston have returned to Ventura without injury or illness. Neither knows if they will join the 3rd team from Firefighters for Christ going to Haiti in April.
Eggleston said he could easily return to Haiti. “I think about it often,” he said.
Kremer said he has been deeply affected by the experience.
“I have not yet decided if I will return,” Kremer said. He added that he is considering taking his family to Haiti to help the children in the orphanages.
Kremer said much still needs to be done for the people of Haiti.
“If people would like to know how they could be involved in helping out financially, I would like to recommend two organizations that are doing great work in Haiti. Here are their websites, he said.
By Tracy Valentine
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