FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jeremy Booth, an emergency room doctor from Ogden who speaks French Creole, needed to place only two calls to make the select group. Provo orthopedic surgeon Creig MacArthur — who learned French as an LDS Church missionary a half-century ago — gladly accepted a surprise phone invitation to join. And Jeff Randle, a Salt Lake City doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was a natural and willing choice, given his longtime charitable efforts at the group's destination site.
They are among the first wave of medical personnel en route to earthquake-ravaged Haiti as part of the ongoing humanitarian efforts by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scheduled to be on the island late today.
The LDS Church's medical team includes 14 doctors and nurses and two family services specialists, most from Utah. They've cleared their schedules and made themselves available for at least a week to make up what Nate Leishman, manager of the church's humanitarian emergency response, labels as "our assess and response team."
And they'll join the international relief efforts in the wake of Tuesday's deadly, devastating earthquake that has left an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 dead, more than 300,000 homeless and the Caribbean nation in the throes of widespread hunger, thirst, pain, suffering and despair.
"This is a hard trip," said Leishman of the medical team's Haitian assignment. Most members of the group are making their first foray into responding to mass-trauma, disaster situations.
It will be far from a typical week's visit to a Caribbean island.
Each member of the group was given a large duffel bag? called the "survival bag" ? that included a tent, a sleeping bag, a blanket and food for the stay. Once in Haiti, they will set up camp, so to speak, outside one of the several LDS chapels in Port-au-Prince or perhaps some at Randle's Helping Hands for Haiti clinic.
"This group is self-contained," said Leishman, adding, "there's no hotel for them there, and it's not as luxurious as camping."
Each of the medical personnel was also given a blue duffel full of basic medical supplies — ranging from gauze and bandages to stethoscopes — and an additional large duffel full of basic pharmaceuticals. Nearly two dozen pallets loaded with additional supplies and drugs are to arrive as well in Port-au-Prince.
The medical team met Sunday afternoon at Salt Lake City International Airport to get their bags and instructions, to make initial introductions to each other and to say goodbye to anxious family members who saw them off.
They boarded a 5 p.m. Delta flight to Fort Lauderdale, arriving just before midnight. The group was then to depart today on a charter cargo flight to Port-au-Prince.
In Haiti, local LDS Church leaders and emergency response officials have participated in daily meetings and partnerships with the United Nations and other major international relief agencies.69 comments on this story
With the addition of the soon-to-arrive "assess and response" medical team, LDS humanitarian relief leaders will have an even better idea of what to do in coming weeks and how to establish an extended rotation of medical personnel in Haiti, Leishman said.
More than 200 individuals — most with medical team and some with close ties to Haiti and its people — contacted the church in the first days after Tuesday's earthquake, volunteering to assist with relief efforts on the island, he said.
"We were cautious," Leishman added. "We don't want to create a bigger problem by sending too many people."