Wiermans planned a trip in March back to HaitiPublished 10:19am Thursday, January 14, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Haiti is never far from Dr. Jim Wierman’s thoughts in better times.
Wednesday, the day after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled the capital city of Port-au-Prince and collapsed everything from shacks to President Rene Preval’s gleaming white National Palace, it’s all he thought about.
When we contacted him Wednesday morning he was already trying to reach his network contacts - a frustrating task in the Caribbean chaos where dazed survivors wandered trancelike past dead bodies.
There was another trip planned in early March for 19 Dowagiac people.
Jim was to return to Albert Schweitzer Hospital in late March.
“We don’t know if our hospital is even standing,” said his wife, Denise. “We don’t know about the nursing school, either, or any of the people we know.”
During the night Dr. Wierman e-mailed, “Well, it is getting late and still no news from Hilda, Suzi Parker or John Parker. This is bad in my view. I just hope and pray that they are off some place surviving somehow. I think our mission is still on until we hear about the guest house. If the guest house is open and flights are going in we can still do it. Wait and see one day at a time.”
Hilda Alcindor is known to many Dowagiac people because Southwestern Michigan College in May hosted a fundraising reception for the dean’s Haitian nursing school.
The next day she was SMC’s 42nd graduation speaker.
A Haitian-born U.S. citizen, Alcindor was appointed dean in the fall of 2004.
She is fluent in English, French and Creole.
“My mission is to have the Haitian population – my people – fulfill the dream. My mission is to prepare competent, professional nurses able to provide quality – quality! – nursing care.
“Thirdly, prepare dedicated nurses who will participate in the education of the population at large … to prevent diseases and promote good health … Being in Haiti right now is a calling” for the mother of two.
Alcindor was based in Leogane, about 20 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, near the fault line.
The region is rural area that includes high mountains, a broad alluvial plain devoted largely to sugar cane production and coastal fishing communities on the Bay of Gonave.
Leogane is the region’s market center.
From Rodney, a missionary the Wiermans know came this e-mail:
“The situation in Port-au-Prince is very dire. Our fourth-story apartment was one of the casualties. Sharyn had returned from teaching yesterday and was in the apartment for about an hour when the quake struck. Details are still difficult to write, but a wall and the ceiling (concrete) collapsed simultaneously. As they collapsed, she was thrown from her computer station and high-backed office chair. The concrete slabs hit the chair which caused them to slide to the side rather than crushing her. She began to crawl toward an open space. About that time, another wall fell, partially crushing her. Again there was some room to wiggle and she managed to continue to crawl toward open spaces as the building collapsed totally.
“Eventually the four stories became a single story of rubble. She continued to crawl and eventually made it to the street. All told, perhaps three minutes.
Neighbors carried/dragged her away from other buildings and walls. Eventually she went to a hospital that was overflowing and was given a couple aspirin – all they had for medicine. The hospital was closed shortly afterwards due to damage.
“She finally got to the U.S. embassy. She was on a backboard by this time and was examined by a missionary doctor and the embassy doctor – neither had X-rays. They both fear she has a broken back.
“The embassy arranged for helicopter evacuation to a U.S. military hospital in Guantanamo, Cuba. This seemed prudent because she was in intense pain and had significant swelling of the entire waist area. She also had increasing problems breathing. She had some cuts and many bruises developing and was unable to move her right leg, although she has feeling in it and can wiggle her toes. She was medically evacuated about 2 p.m. today. I was not permitted to accompany her as only seriously injured people were put on the medivac helicopter. I do not know when I will have computer access again as I am leaving the embassy soon. In Port-au-Prince, there still is no phone service or electricity.”
Dr. Wierman also received an e-mail from the executive director of BTI, the Bishop Tharp Institute which recite the toll: “According to reports I have received here in Les Cayes, the damage in Port au Prince and areas around it is terrible. There is no Cathedral.
The entire Holy Trinity complex is gone. The convent for the Sisters of St. Margaret is gone. The Bishop’s house is gone. College St. Pierre is gone. The apartment for College St. Pierre is still standing. Bishop no longer has a house in which to live.
“In Trouin, four people were killed during a service. In Grand Colline, the church is gone. In St. Etienne, the church is gone. In Les Cayes, BTI is OK, but some people were injured trying to get out of the buildings during the quake. The rectory in Les Cayes is in very bad condition.”