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LDS relief: Utah nurse draws on the power of love and healing to help boy

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 5:03 p.m. MDT

Nurse Liz Howell carries quake victim 4-year-old Oresto Oclor to a hospital for surgery on the boy's arm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday.   (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Nurse Liz Howell carries quake victim 4-year-old Oresto Oclor to a hospital for surgery on the boy's arm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Editor's note: Liz Howell is a member of the LDS Church-sponsored medical team providing care last week in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Before leaving Saturday to return to Salt Lake City, Howell recounted a final experience in aiding the injured Haitians. These are her words, as told to the Deseret News' Scott Taylor.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Friday afternoon, some of our medical team were at the clinic at the Centrale Ward meetinghouse while the rest went to Dr. Jeff Randle's Helping Hands of Haiti clinic.

We were to meet at University Hospital at about 5 o'clock. We left Centrale to go to the Carrefour Ward meetinghouse.

We then realized we had only 45 minutes to do any type of a clinic there, which is essentially enough time to set it up and take it back down again.

We asked if we should turn around and go back; we said, "No, let's just go."

President George H. Bush comforts Olympic torchbearer Elizabeth Howell in 2001, just months after her husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks.  (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press) President George H. Bush comforts Olympic torchbearer Elizabeth Howell in 2001, just months after her husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

When we arrived at the meetinghouse, people were all over the grass, people were inside the cultural hall and we really didn't see any acute medical needs at first.

We had been there about 10 minutes and in comes this little boy. He's in a little, crude litter that had been made from sticks and clothing. It was very makeshift.

The little boy was 4 years old, but he looked like he was 2, just little. He looked like a baby. His mother had died in the earthquake; his father was alive.

When they found the boy, they found him with a dead body — another boy, maybe a brother. His aunt and his father, who lived up in the hills, walked for hours with this litter and the boy, looking for a place to stay.

They were near the church when they were spotted by one of the LDS members, who the previous day had been given the responsibility to find people in need of medical help. The member said there would be help, and so he waited for only two hours until we showed up.

The little baby will probably lose his hand; his bones were exposed. He had lacerations so deep we could see the bones, and even that was necrotic.

He had lacerations on each side of his torso, chunks missing from his scalp, and his left ear was kind of hanging there.

He had a real high fever; he was just burning up. By the time we got him, it appeared he was septic, full of infection. I think maybe he would have had two days, if that, before he would have passed.

I knew we had to take him to a hospital right then and there. He was so scared and in such pain. He was dirty and crying. I bandaged him, cleaned all of his wounds and gave him antibiotics.

We wrapped him up and he held me. He didn't understand English, but I just kept telling him that I loved him and that we would take care of him, that we would make sure that he would receive the best care.

We wrapped him up, and with the rest of the medical team, we went into University Hospital. He just held on so tight to me, and I held on; he just whimpered all the way to the hospital.

I asked (Ogden emergency-room doctor Jeremy Booth), who was in the back seat, to give the baby a priesthood blessing. He did — and in Creole, he blessed the baby.

We heal with our hands, but there's also a healing we have access to that comes in times of need.

I don't have children. I don't know if I'll ever have children. I don't know if that's the Lord's will for me. But I'd like to think that maybe if I were a mother who passed away, that someone would take care of my child, and I was grateful I could do that.

We went into the pediatric ward and were meet by Swiss doctors. Right now, the Swiss have revolutionized a procedure and have done marvelous work in reconstruction. Without looking at the baby's wounds, they told me they have not lost an arm yet nor have lost a foot yet in all their surgical procedures.

As I was getting ready to go, I looked him in his big, brown eyes and told him, "We love you, and you're going to be taken care of." And I left him in the care of the Swiss and have every confidence he's going to live a productive life.

I'm grateful the Lord led us to him, that the members were in tune enough to find him and bring him to us.

I think the people I have been most impressed with during this entire trip is the native Haitians. They are resilient.

They're putting their lives back together. They're going through compound grief, but they're resilient, and they will get through this.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company