Help on the way, more needed

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate November 26, 2012 06:15 pm

Photos courtesy Andrew Darst Carolyn Dikes, PA-C, left, visits with a Haitian patient thanking Dikes for recommending an EKG test, which found atrial fibrillation.
Photos courtesy Andrew Darst Carolyn Dikes, PA-C, left, visits with a Haitian patient thanking Dikes for recommending an EKG test, which found atrial fibrillation.
Carolyn Dikes’ medical supplies hadn’t arrived yet, but 3-year-old Rodriguez needed immediate care, so Dikes made do with what she had.

Using a hunting knife, a tampon, duct tape and lots of hand sanitizer, Dikes cleaned the maggots out of the little boy’s infected abscess. She cut the tampon up for gauze and used the hand sanitizer as disinfectant. When her luggage finally got to Haiti, Dikes and the rest of the medical team returned to the toddler’s orphanage.

“We gave him the correct antibiotic injection,” Dikes said. “When we checked on him, he was playing with the other kids and was happy.”

Dikes, a local physician assistant who returned from Haiti last week, encountered kids with infections: asthmatic, fungal and respiratory. Many were suffering from diseases related to malnutrition, she said. 

But on what was her fourth trip with Team Redwood, a group of local engineers, medical and dental providers, Dikes said she also saw a country that had no infrastructure prior to the January 2010 earthquake now beginning to rise to its feet.

“We watched garbage trucks stop and pick up trash,” she said, adding there was very little rubble left. “Before people had to slog through trash; now everyone puts the trash in one place, and garbage trucks come at night. “It was so refreshing to see heavy equipment and to see groups of government employees sweeping the street. There was no infrastructure, but now it’s starting. There’s more of a sense of peace.”

Dikes went to Haiti within weeks of the earthquake with ACTS World Relief, an organization that provides disaster and medical relief all over the world. She said she felt compelled to go largely because of the 6.5 Eureka earthquake that had rocked the North Coast a few days prior to Haiti’s quake.

On this trip Dikes was accompanied by former Crescent City Public Works Director Mike Young, nurse practitioner Molly Jacob and medical assistant Diana Simpson, both from Arcata, Eureka dentist Vue Bai and Napa physician’s assistant Kathy Luce. Andrew and Angela Darst and Todd Barrett of Minnesota provided security and team support. Team Redwood embarked on its latest trip to Haiti on Nov. 7.

Photos courtesy Andrew Darst Boys on the left, girls on the right await worming and fluoride treatments and medical and dental exams at Helping Hands of Haiti Orphanage, which holds 75 children.
Photos courtesy Andrew Darst Boys on the left, girls on the right await worming and fluoride treatments and medical and dental exams at Helping Hands of Haiti Orphanage, which holds 75 children.
Young, who has visited Haiti twice this year to help provide access to potable water, said he was also surprised by the progress that has been made since the earthquake. No stranger to the island nation, Young had visited Haiti in October 2009, roughly three months before the quake hit. Since retiring from Crescent City, Young has volunteered in Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil. 

On his post-quake return to Haiti with Engineering Ministries International, Young  found many of the country’s buildings reduced to rubble. People were living in tent cities and residents were still trying to recover bodies. Young visited Haiti three times in 2010 evaluating and repairing damaged buildings.

“People were living outside of buildings that were safe just out of fear,” he said. “Haiti hadn’t experienced an earthquake in several hundred years, and to have one of the severity of the damage they had in 2010 was frightening, particularly for those not familiar with it.”

On his most recent trip to Haiti, though, Young was also pleasantly surprised that Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital city, had regular garbage service. Much of the rubble and debris left behind by the earthquake had been swept out of the streets, he said. The site of the National Palace, which had once been the center of the Haitian government prior to the earthquake, had been cleaned up, Young said. Many Haitians say they hope to reconstruct a new one, he said.

“It was a point of national pride, and it was completely wiped out,” Young said. “It looks like a lot of repairs had been done and a lot of places had been cleaned up and getting ready to (be) reconstructed.”

Despite the progress, Haitians are still in desperate need, Dikes said. During this trip Dikes and her team provided clean water, food and fluoride treatment for every single child they saw. They also provided reading glasses, she said, adding that the team could use an optometrist. 

Team Redwood also did a lot of community education on the importance of washing. Team members taught 60 community members, 25 of which were Haitian, first aid, CPR and how to be part of a community emergency response team. 

Dikes added that many Haitians of the younger generation, in their 20s, are stepping up to the plate. One of the team’s young translators started an orphanage of his own, she said.

“We’re helping them form a library,” she said, adding that education is something that’s sorely needed in Haiti. “We want it to spread like a ripple effect. They believe the children are the future of Haiti.”

According to the organization’s website, Team Redwood is still searching for volunteers, including mental health professionals, kindergarten or primary school teachers and music teachers. Those interested in volunteering can send an e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Team Redwood is also taking donations. For more information, visit www.teamredwood.org. Donations can also be sent to Team Redwood 550 East Washington Blvd. Suite 100 in Crescent City.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it