02/18/10 — Wayne folks helping with Haiti relief

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Wayne folks helping with Haiti relief

By Staff Reports
Published in News on February 18, 2010 1:46 PM

When Ann Maxwell heard a friend of hers was taking a donated corporate plane to pick up a group of doctors who had traveled to Haiti to help earthquake victims, she was touched by the generosity of those who gave their time for the mission.

And then she got to thinking.

That plane would be empty on the way down.

"Why not fill it up?" she said.

And so she did -- as best she could -- with the help of others in the community.

After finding out that some of the most-needed items were bug spray, hand sanitizer and tents, she got to work, with little time to spare.

Her first call was to the Boy Scouts -- and then she went shopping.

At the last-minute, the departure time got moved up and Ms. Maxwell was only able to do a small portion of what she would have liked, but the seed was planted, especially when she heard there would be another trip of eastern North Carolina medical professionals -- a much larger endeavor -- headed back to Haiti Feb. 20.

Why not try again -- and this time -- include much-needed supplies?

"I asked them what they needed most, and they said, 'We need some more doctors," she said. "And I thought, 'We have doctors in Goldsboro.'"

So she asked around and found that there were many who wanted to go but who could not swing the quick departure date.

And then word got to Dr. Howard Newell that there was a space on the plane.

In the past, he had discussed with his wife the possibility of volunteering on missions to Africa and the Haiti disaster hit him hard. His specialty is internal medicine, but he has experience in treating wounds and he said he thought he could be of help.

"I thought about it and decided that they could use someone with experience in wound care," he said. "It's just a way of giving back."

The Feb. 20-27 trip, which is being organized in Clinton, will include three private jets donated for a week as well as 18 seats on commercial flights -- and will bring 40 doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and other support help to the region.

The jets will allow the doctors the piece of mind of knowing that they have a ride home, Ms. Maxwell said.

"A lot of doctors have gone over there and found their way to places where they are doing medical treatments," she said.

Locating a clinic that has the facilities to care for the injured and making sure there is transportation to and from the location means medical professionals can get help to the people who need it in a safe and efficient manner, Ms. Maxwell said.

"This is the safest and quickest way to get them down there," she said. "Most of them have to get right back."

Ms. Maxwell said the stories she heard from those who are already working with patients in Haiti were heart-breaking -- makeshift offices, horrible conditions, and most-disturbing, earthquake victims who could not get critical surgeries because of a shortage of drugs.

So she made another call -- this time to Wayne Pharmacy.

The owners of the business, the Wiggins family, did not hesitate to offer their help in the form of 10,000 doses of antibiotics. The medicine will make the surgeries possible.

Goldsboro Physical Therapy also organized a drive to collect used medical equipment, which will be shipped to Haiti based on available space, she said.

Because of the limited space and the need to transport as many medical personnel as possible, organizers said the best way for Wayne County residents to help is to donate funds to be used to purchase the supplies, medicines and other necessities to help the quake victims.

The students at Wayne Country Day stepped up to that challenge, having fundraisers to collect money to start the fund, as well as sheets.

Ms. Maxwell said there is still time to donate for this mission. To do so, call her at 778-5521.

Although all the seats for the current mission are filled, there are more trips to Haiti planned, with more room for medical professionals, supplies and hope in the form of money that will be needed as the country tries to get back on its feet.

But, for now, she is trying to get the supplies she knows the clinic needs and to fill two seats on the Feb. 20 planes with surgeons -- two had to back out at the last minute to meet the needs of their own patients.

Ms. Maxwell said she did not set out to start a drive to help Haiti, but that hearing the stories made her realize just how basic the needs are in the earthquake-ravaged country. She realized that items Americans take for granted -- like water, food and medicine -- were simply unavailable in Haiti.

"It's just amazing what we don't think about," she said.

Ms. Maxwell said she hopes Goldsboro and Wayne County residents will be able to be part of future Haiti flights -- and is hoping that possibly, soon, she can help bring more doctors -- this time from Goldsboro -- to Haiti.

"We can really make a difference, right here in this county," she said.