Tammy Tucker went to Haiti shortly after the earthquake in 2010.
Even though she had been a surgical nurse for years, she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.
“It was terrifying,” she said.
It didn’t scare her away, though. She returned to Haiti three more times. She’s leaving for her fifth trip to Haiti on March 6. This time she is bringing Roseanne Lewis with her to provide medical care to people living in the Timo area.
“Our mission is to provide medical care for the people of Timo,” Tucker said. “And it’s the only medical care they will get.”
Tucker visited the Moab area for 25 years before she moved here last April. She found a way to live where she loved to play by taking a job as a surgical nurse at Moab Regional Hospital.
Tucker was part of a disaster relief team with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) during the first trip. She said most of the buildings were destroyed in the city of Leongane, where the team worked. One of the few safe buildings was the LDS church.
“We took it over and set up clinics,” Tucker said. “We lived in a church house for two weeks.”
She called that first trip “organized chaos.”
“I spent eight years working in an emergency room, but nothing prepared me for that mission,” she said. “The way we do medical care here and there is different. The doctors are so busy. I get to do things there I don’t get to do here.”
She set broken arms.
She delivered babies.
She now travels to Haiti with Haitian Health Initiative (HHI), founded in 2009 by Marc-Aurel Martial, a Haitian native who now lives in Orem. The organization sends a team of doctors, dentists, nurses, civil engineers and agriculturalists to Haiti twice a year.
“We take between 25 and 28 people each time,” she said. “We travel up into the small village of Timo, forty miles into the mountains from the city of Leogane.”
She said the landscape is a huge canyon, with pockets of people scattered throughout the area. Tucker said that she will wake at 5 a.m., and there will be hundreds of people at the gates needing help.
“Some of the patients will walk eight or nine miles to see us. Mothers and children will walk to see us, with no food and very little water. We will see people will old wounds: broken bones, torn limbs. It is horrendous,” Tucker said.
This will be Lewis’ first trip to Haiti.
She will teach labor and delivery to midwives in the area.
“The midwives are non-traditional from what we would think,” Tucker said. “They are male community leaders. It is a sacred calling.”
Tucker said that the goal is create sustainable systems based on education.
“Everything we do is educational-centered,” Tucker said. We do vaccinations for mothers and children and hand-out hygiene kits, but not without education. It’s the only thing that is sustainable. We’re always thinking long-term.”
That long-term plan includes creating water filtration systems.
“We take clean water for granted, but there they are doing laundry and bathing in the only water that is available,” Tucker said.
A group from HHI went up to the springs and piped the water down for clean filtered water systems for drinking water.
Deforestation has been a major problem in Haiti.
“They chopped down the forest and are running out of trees. It results in erosion and disease,” Tucker said. “We’re teaching them to recrop the countryside. They have gardens now with drip systems.”
Each member of the HHI team is allowed to take 200 pounds of supplies.
“That includes our medical and pharmaceuticals supplies,” Tucker said.
However, each team member packs additional items to be left with the Haitian people.
Moab Regional Hospital is providing 75 newborn kits for the upcoming trip.
“I’m excited that the Moab community is interested. The response has been overwhelming,” Tucker said. “I’ve had people who don’t even know me who have asked, ‘are you the woman going to Haiti?’ and they hand me a $100 bill.”
Tucker said Moab service groups have expressed interest in making hygiene kits that include soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
One of the big needs, though, is shoes.
The team discovered that many of the Haitian people suffer from anemia, which is caused by a worm in the bloodstream that enters cuts on the feet through contaminated soil.
“It’s a severe problem there. If we put shoes on these people we can prevent medical problems and disease,” Tucker said. “Crocs work really well.”