Apologies to those who check my blog for not posting this week. My husband, Chris, is in Haiti with the Church medical team and that rather dramatically impacted my week.
Chris was the pioneer of CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) in LDS Family Services. While director of the Nevada Agency, he connected with the Red Cross and had his agency certified as disaster mental health workers. (That has quite the ring to it, doesn’t it? Disaster mental health. How would you like to qualify for that designation?) I was in my masters of social work program and Chris scheduled the training so I could get certified, as well. But while I have yet to participate in anything but occasional local assignments, Chris has had lots of interesting experiences and great opportunities to serve.
Chris first accepted the call to help as part of a Red Cross team for two weeks, responding to the Louisville floods. He learned a lot about disaster response. Then just a few months after Chris was transferred to Utah to be the director of the Salt Lake Agency, the Family History Center shooting happened downtown. Within about twenty minutes, Chris had a team over at Abravenal Hall where they were evacuating the library patrons and workers and where concerned family members were congregating. Two weeks later, the Columbine High School shootings happened and Chris was sent—for the first time representing the Church—to Colorado to offer services. Since then, Chris has headed up or participated on teams responding to several hurricanes, the Oklahoma F5 tornado, The World Trade Center attack, and even the Indonesia tsunami.
So when the call came asking if he was interested in going to Haiti, he could cheerfully reply, “I was hoping I could help.” We were visiting our daughter’s family in Southern California when he needed to leave so we ransacked the local Target trying to think of anything and everything that he might need but that wouldn’t be too much to carry. Our daughter, Caitlin, packed up some things from our home in Draper that were taken to the airport for Chris to add to his Target kit when he flew in from the Ontario airport. He didn’t have time to go home. He joined up with the medical team in the airport and they flew to Ft. Lauderdale.
It was a rough trip. With all the limitations and problems of flying into Port-au-Prince, the team ended up being bussed to Miami, taking a commercial flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and then taking a bus from there into Haiti and to Port-au-Prince. Our communication has been limited to short phone calls on satellite phones that are occasionally passed around. They are short, sometimes garbled, and usually cut off, but I’m grateful for that amazing technology. Unfortunately, I heard yesterday that the sat phones are going home today and Chris will be there for most of next week, so we may not hear too much more from him directly, but he’s well, in good spirits, and happy to be there to help in any way he can. He reports that the doctors and nurses are wonderful people and the Haitian people are grateful. The Haitian members of the Church are particularly wonderful and willing to help with anything, in spite of their own personal tragedies. The most frustrating part, he says, is that things are in such chaos that there is too much wasted time waiting for transportation or dealing with machines or facilities that don’t work as they should. And the whole team hurts from wanting to do more.
I’m glad Chris could be there to help. I’ll be glad when he’s home safe. And I’ll be extra glad when things work out for me to join him on one of those opportunities to serve our fellow men in the face of catastrophe. For now, I can be content to serve my fellow men who are hurting from less dramatic, often less visible troubles.