The ecological difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is starkly visible from 32,000 feet.The Dominican Republic on the eastern half of the island the two Caribbean countries share, is beautifully green. It’s neighbor to the west, Haiti, is brown, thanks to clear cut forests and decimated ecosystem.This was the first thing Dr. Jack Frankeny and his wife, Beverly, noticed. The Greenwood Twp. Juniata County, couple landed in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on April 9 to serve as surgical volunteers. The closer they got to Carrefour, a Port-au-Prince suburb where the Adventist hospital was located, the more they saw the effect of the January 12 earthquake.“We’d get closer and closer and closer and closer, and we’d start to see the shanties and the tent camps,” Jack explained. “ We noticed a lot of blank faces; traumatized, vacant stares.”From April 9 through 16, the Frankenys helped Haitians with surgical issues,which ran the gamut from tumors to arthritis to amputations. Half of those the Frankenys assisted were victims of the earthquake, and the other half were people who never before had access to medical care.After the earthquake, the Haitian government offered free treatments to anyone in need, not just those injured by the quake. Some would come into the hospital and pretend to be a victim in order to receive care. The Frankenys did everything to reassure those in need that they would receive care.”You could just tell based on their appearance [that some weren’t affected by the earthquake],” Jack said. “All you could do was reassure them that they were going to receive care.”Jack is an orthopedic surgeon at the Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania. He first learned of the World Surgical Foundation, the Harrisburg-based group the Frankenys traveled with, through a colleague, Dr. Dom Alvear, the group’s founder.
When Jack approached Beverly, an orthopedic nurse, about going to Haiti, she put aside her reservations and was all for it. “We had done small donations, but I prefer to be hands-on,” she said.They had three weeks to prepare for the trip and arrange for someone to take care of their hobby farm. Several inoculations later, they were ready to go.Despite the hardships the couple saw, there were moments of happiness. Beverly’s camera became a favorite of the Haitian children, who enjoyed having their photos taken.”You would take the photo, and they would want to see it. Once they saw it, their faces lit up,” Beverly said.Many of those photos made their way to Beverly’s blog, ImagesofHaiti.Blogspot.com, and each tells a story—some sad, some of hope. One of the photos was of new life.”Jack delivered his first baby,” Beverly said. It wasn’t something the doctor expected, but Jack said, “We did whatever was required.”The conditions weren’t optimal. In surgery, an attendant would use an electric fly swatter to keep insects away. Implements, gloves, gowns and other supplies often were recycled due to depletion fears.It bothers the Frankenys that they had to leave without being able to follow up to make sure some of the surgeries were a success, but they would be able to follow up with doctors there.The trip to Haiti made the couple grateful for what they had. “Nothing could justify unhappiness” after what they were privy to witnessing.”They’re nice people,” Jack said. “They are a positive, loving people—it’s innocence in hell.”