SALT LAKE CITY — Utah humanitarians returned early Friday morning from two tough weeks in Haiti to cheers, kisses and flower bouquets. And a lot of them started to cry as they hugged their children, husbands, parents and wives.
Members of the Utah Hospital Task Force were chosen for the two-week volunteer assignment in earthquake-devastated Haiti because of their medical skills, construction capabilities or ability to speak Creole.
But they all served multiple roles, according to Marvin Murri of Farmington, who does construction. He divided his time between building a temporary shelter in a field for as many as 200 orphans who did not have a safe building and helping doctors provide care in a tent city where 70,000 Haitians are being sheltered. When a painful but necessary procedure was done, it was often a construction worker's hand gently restraining the patient or holding the light.
Steve Studdert, who organized the trip, said he'd "never seen so many miracles performed on such good people ... in such catastrophic circumstances." And he proclaimed proudly that the Utah team became well-known and highly sought-after for their skills, dedication and effectiveness. "Nimble and willing." The surgeons did "surgeries that were nothing short of miraculous in the worst possible environment," including in ditches and roads with only flashlights for illumination.
Utah Creole speakers like Pierre Dartiguenave, a Haitian who moved to America at age 12, were in constant demand to talk to Haitian doctors and patients, to go on food drops to calm the crowd, to visit tent cities and find those in need of care.
Dr. Cory Bringhurst had two powerful talents: He's an emergency room doctor and also speaks Creole, a language he learned while serving an LDS mission in Haiti. He called his family every night, said wife Diana, but the whole family — Brandon, 17, Shannon, 14, and Jennifer, 9 — gathered at the Million Air terminal Friday to bring him home.
Pam Clark suggested the trip to her sister and fellow nurse, Michele Frost, and the two spent most of the time working side by side. At 5:30 a.m., Clark's husband Roy pulled in from Lehi to join Norm Frost, who was coming from Farmington, and extended family in waiting for the sisters to come home.
Frost's youngest son, Eddie, got his LDS mission call this week and has been waiting for his mom to get back before opening the envelope to see where he's going to be for two years, Norm Frost said.
Most of the people waiting anxiously for the plane said they'd been in touch often with members of the task force. Shock-trauma intensive-care nurse Gaylinn Breeze had been phoning and texting home. Laurie Rood heard from her son, Dr. Corey Rood, a pediatrician, often, though "mostly phone messages." Translator Bryant Wonnacott sent brief texts every day to his wife Natalie. Besides calls, Yvonne Roderick of Logan said she kept up with her daughter, Kim, who is a nurse, by reading the blog she posted from Haiti.
And several of them told reporters they'd felt "blessed" on the journey. "We felt the hand of the Lord so much in everything," said Dr. Carl Bell of Orem.
As they were leaving, a man stopped Studdert. "Thanks for bringing her home safely," he said as he hugged his wife. To which she added, "Thanks for bringing me at all."