Medical mission trip inspires Catholics


By Anne Marie Amacher

Dr. Sunny Arikat examines a patient during a medical mission to Jean Denis, Haiti. Arikat is a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.

In addition to seeing patients at a medical clinic in Haiti, a delegation from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf added a dental clinic to its recent mission trip.
Ann Wester, trip coordinator from St. John Vianney, said 22 people journeyed to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Jean Denis, Haiti, for the Jan. 31-Feb. 8 mission. Of that group, 15 were from St. John Vianney.
Wester said a St. John Vianney parishioner paid to have many items shipped to Haiti in advance. “We sent medications, Beanie Babies, clothes and granola bars. Plus, this donor also bought over-the-counter medications, 10 computers, wheelchairs, tools, ladders and paint.”
The clothing included 100 jumpers and 50 pairs of shorts and new T-shirts provided by women from Ss. Joseph and Cabrini Parish in Richland.
In addition, the delegation brought 38 suitcases containing 1,400 goodie bags (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and shampoo), 200 baseball caps, Beanie Babies, toy cars, medication, dental supplies, soccer balls, jump ropes and more granola bars.
When they arrived in Haiti on Feb. 1, the group spent time with children. “This is always a favorite activity for all of us. We bring hair ties and bows and nail polish. We sing and play with the kids.”
The group attended Sunday Mass that was more than two hours long. “You leave very inspired and in awe of the faith of the people. They have very little, but are joyful and have a deep faith.”
The group’s work began after the 8 a.m. Mass and went to around 8 p.m. Each patient who went through the clinic received a goodie bag and granola bar.
The group saw 1,400 patients and distributed 377 pairs of eye glasses in the medical clinic. Volunteers transported several patients to area hospitals who needed more care than the group could provide. “We gave the family money for gas, food and registration at the hospital. One young patient in particular was in a tremendous amount of pain and was diagnosed with sickle cell crisis. If this had gone untreated, she could have died,” Wester said.
The group brought one dentist for the dental clinic; three Haitian dentists were hired to assist. Some 214 patients received dental care; 163 extractions were performed. “Some were multiple extractions per patient.”
Father Scott Francis, a physician who became a priest, also assisted with the group for a few days. He is working to create his own mission, Wester said. “He is American-born but speaks Creole flawlessly.”
Fr. Francis plans to return to Jean Denis periodically to provide follow-up care to patients seen at the clinic. “This is an area that we would like to see grow as so many patients have diabetes and high blood pressure that require closer observation.”
Dr. Mark Blaser of St. John Vianney has made several trips to Haiti and this time also went to a nearby clinic to discuss the use of nebulizers there and provided a nebulizer. Dr. Sunny Arikat, also from St. John Vianney, instructed the clinic’s midwife about resuscitation techniques for Third World deliveries and provided materials for additional training. “We are hoping that this will be the start of a good working relationship with this clinic,” Wester said.
Maureen and Tim Conrad of St. John Vianney felt called to make the mission trip. “Ever since the earthquake brought so much attention to Haiti, it has been on our hearts to do something to help,” Maureen said. “We thought it ironic that the devastation occurred on our anniversary. However, the timing didn’t work out for us to travel there the first couple of years — so we simply supported our church’s mission monetarily and through prayers.
“Finally this year, our schedules made it possible for us to actually go to Haiti and help out firsthand. God seems to know when to put people where he needs them to be. He didn’t give up on us and we are humbled and grateful that we were able to serve alongside other parish members and friends, local doctors, interpreters and dentists from Haiti. We became a very close-knit group throughout our week together.”
Wester said St. John Vianney continues to provide financial support for teacher salaries at the school and to supplement the lunch program. “We are actively involved with helping build a new school. Our goal is sustainability for this community and we continue to strive toward that goal.”

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