Utah nurses helped orphans in Haiti quake

Published: Saturday, Jan. 16 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Mandi McBride, a Logan nurse, is helping children in Haiti.

Provided by Angie Rasmussen

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Mandi McBride and Carol Smith were going up the stairs of an orphanage seven miles from the city center when the shaking started Tuesday.

These Logan women were carrying loads of toys to the eight babies a floor above them when they heard a loud boom that sounded like a bomb, and everything began to rock violently.

McBride said all she could think about was saving the screaming babies that began flying across the room and rolling back and forth just a couple of steps in front of her.

"I needed to get in there and get as many kids as I could," McBride said. It was all she could think about when the earthquake hit.

She dived on the ground trying to dodge the shelves that were falling down around her and was able to grab about four terrified babies in her arms and move to the side of the room.

"I sat near the wall until it stopped," McBride recalled. "It only lasted about four minutes, but it seemed like it lasted for hours. It was like everything was happening in slow motion. I just knew we were all gone. I was praying as hard as I could. I've never been so close to death in my life."

Just steps behind, clinging to the side of the stairwell, Smith waited out the first tremble, with about 40 more to come over the next couple of days.

McBride said she could hear a woman downstairs, who has been in Haiti for about five months, screaming "help me, help me" as dishes were crashing and walls were caving in.

As soon as the shaking stopped, Smith ran into the upstairs room and helped McBride quickly carry the eight babies, uninjured, to the front of the building.

Looking around the Ruuska Village orphanage, located in Bon Repos a few miles outside of Port-au-Prince, McBride saw that each of the 12 buildings had at least a few walls down, but everyone in the village had survived. "There were lots of cracks and lots of damage," she said.

They were the lucky ones, though: all the homes next to the village collapsed, McBride said.

McBride and Smith are both emergency room nurses who landed in Haiti Monday for a mission trip that was supposed to last about a week, but their purpose there changed the minute the shaking started.

McBride has been going to Haiti every three months or so since she started the adoption process of her two children, Schnaider, 4, and Charbine, 17, who have now been living in Utah with her and her husband Kevin for nearly two years.

McBride and Smith said many Haitian families know about Ruuska Village and have come seeking medical attention. The women have been treating broken arms and legs and stitching up lacerations faster than they ever did before.

Friday, they went to the United States consulate and were helping army medical teams treat patients.

"I feel like I am where I need to be right now," McBride said. "And we are doing everything we can to help out everyone we can."

Barbara Ann Walker, originally from New York, runs the Ruuska Village and has lived in Haiti since she was asked to come help out there 23 years ago.

Walker said she couldn't be operating the orphanage as she is without Smith and McBride.

"Mandi and Carol have been absolute saviors to our program here," Walker said. "I don't know what I would have done without them here right now. They have been an unbelievable blessing to me."

Walker has seen a lot of tragedy living in Haiti and traveling around the world. This 65-year-old woman was one of the first people in Burma after cyclone Nargis hit in May 2008. She also went to Thailand after a tsunami devastated coastal areas in December 2004.