CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The most devastating earthquake in Haiti's history left one clinic standing at the Double Harvest Mission. Within hours, that facility built by a philanthropist with direct ties to Charlotte became a focal point for thousands of victims. In our Cover Story, Jeff Atkinson introduces us to one of the first medical experts back from the devastation.
What makes his experience unusual is some doctors from U.S. have gone into Haiti hoping to help and haven't been able to get into the country. But an anesthesiologist from Charlotte through help of a local family was able to get in. He hopes his story encourages others to help.
He's still amazed at the way he got into Haiti.. arriving on a military helicopter of all things.. the Double Harvest Mission.. four miles outside Port-au-Prince.
"We went in and started working," he said.
Dr. Art McCulloch anesthesiologist from Charlotte just got back from Haiti. He arrived the Sunday after the earthquake hit.
"Word spread quickly that the hospital was open that we had two operating rooms that we had physicians and nurses."
The hospital now one of a precious few left in the country, one of just a few buildings in the area not damaged or destroyed in the quake because it was to American standards by the late businessman Aart VanWingerden. He and his wife 30 years ago started Double Harvest, a 300 acre mission run today by the VanWingerden family of Charlotte known to many as owners of Metrolina Greenhouses.
Says McCulloch, "It's easy to be overwhelmed by the vastness of the injury but I think it was more overwhelming to notice that no one complained."
So appreciative for the chance at medical care. Haitians he says were brought in dump trucks from villages near and far.
"You can't be surrounded by that much misery without having its effect. I'm not ashamed to tell you when I got home my wife picked me up at the airport I balled like a baby."
In an earthquake where so buildings had collapsed most of the injured suffered broken bones and left untreated gangrene and had begun to set in.
"Unfortunately a lot of what we had to do initially was amputations.. and that's extremely unfortunate in a society such as Haiti where the primary mode of transportation is walking."
Dr. McCullouch told us his trip there has encouraged other doctors to consider such a mission. If it were up to him he'd go back tomorrow.
He says, "The people are so appreciative. It's just impossible to explain to you the beauty of these people and the toughness of the Haitians. They appreciate everything so much that how can you not want to go back."
In the week he was there hundreds went through the operating rooms. The medical clinic saw 1,000 in three days. How did Dr. McCulloch and the medical team get flown in on a military helicopter? He said through connections the VanWingerden family has in Haiti.