I'm overwhelmed by the amount of injuries and the severity of the injuries! Everywhere that I look there are buildings that have been destroyed! Even banks! BANKS!? Good grief! Taking pictures of the destroyed buildings seems pointless after a while. They all just look like pictures of piles of rocks. I don't allow my brain to wonder what it could be like to be trapped alive. However, I must admit, my mind keeps burping the concept up since the aftershock scared the heck out of me. Last night I woke up about five times thinking we were having another earthquake only to realize, several heartbeats later, that it was only a US Air Force C130 transport plane taking off. Our guest house is somewhere just beyond the end of the runway. Those things are loud!
(The above video was originally streamed live from my iPhone! It is a bit slow to load so please hang in there.)
Today I went to the US Embassy to try to figure out how to get our 12 year old burn victim to the US. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy process but I was told that I needed to go to the "secret door". Well...there is no "secret door". I looked. Nope, not there. There were a lot of guys with machine guns though. The soldiers told me that they had to hold the crowd of 4000 off at gun point earlier in the day. After about fifteen minutes of negotiation though 3 inch thick bulletproof glass, they were finally able to figure out someone that I should talk to. They put the phone under the window and I spoke with the Embassy nurse practitioner. About 15 minutes later she came out the door and we had a chance to plead our case. One of our anesthesiologists, Dr. Angele went with me to see if she could get her aunt out of the county. Her aunt is diabetic and wheelchair bound.
So after all of the talk the bottom line was: no help.
So, really the only hope to get my little cutie with the burn out of the county was going to be a medivac with the US Air force. I knew it was a long shot but I wasn't going to give up. I kept thinking about what I would do if she were my daughter. I gave it a bunch of thought. I decided to go for it. So, I took a picture of her burn on my iPhone and took my passion to the airport.
At the airport I met CPT Tracie Tippins. She was the one in charge of medical logistics. I told her that I just wanted her to give me about 30 seconds. I asked her to shut out and forget about all of the stuff that was going on around us and just pretend that we were standing in her front yard on a bright summer day. Then I showed her the picture and asked her the big question, "What if this was your daughter?" CPT Tippins really went to bat for us. She ended up rallying several people to work on getting her Stateside. Col Holloway was instrumental in making it happen. A US senator came through the area earlier and, filled with compassion, asked them to transport the injured patients that they had to the US for care. CPT Tippins called me after I had left the hospital with the news. She thought there was about an 80% chance that she was going to be able to get her on the plane if we could get her out to the airstrip in 45 min.
Wilson and I jumped on the car and raced to the hospital to get her and her mother. They were both asleep so we woke them up and told them that there was a chance she was going to the US but we had to hurry. We needed to have her out to the airport by 11:30 PM. She has a brother but he could stay with his aunt. He wasn't there so he wouldn't find out until the next day when he came to see her. Wilson told me that he would look out for him as well.
She had never been on an airplane before. At first she was really afraid. She put on her sundress and looked at me with her huge eyes that seemed to talk. Without words they said, "Help me! I'm soooo afraid." I smiled at her and she smiled back. I felt our hearts connect.
We loaded into the car and raced out to the airport. The really cool thing about the airport is that we can drive out on the tarmac. We just go into gate 7, flash the guards our ID (usually I use my Kitsap County ID because it has a bar code so it works very well), and then we are out on the runway. One time a few days ago we came face to face with a 747. My Dad always said, "Yield to tonnage." so we let the plane go first. We drove down to the far end of the runway where the Air Force and the Army folks were gathered. They instantly fell in love when they saw her. I warned her that she was famous.
They took great care of her. They gave her a Tootsie Pop and she smiled. It was clear that they were really touched by her. Even the chaplin, "Happy Chappy", came and prayed with her. The next day Col Holloway wanted to take a picture with me because, he told me, getting her out was the best thing that happened to him on a very difficult day.
It was for me too.