Rich Pickett is SDSU’s CIO and a licensed pilot for 32 years. This chronicles his second volunteer trip to Haiti, flying relief flights to earthquake ravaged Haiti.
During our last trip to Haiti in February flying a volunteer airlift, it was evident that I’d have to return at least one more time. By the time my wife Jane and I had landed back in San Diego after the completion of the first airlift, we had an initial plan to return.
During the interim between the trips I was in communication with other groups around the US, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Haiti, who needed help. For immediate needs we were able to coordinate with others who could fill the need. One particular orphanage in Jacmel needed immediate assistance. Jeanna Harding, a relief volunteer in Jacmel whom we had visited several times had come across this orphanage where many of the children were starving. From San Diego, I was able to contact Lifeline Haiti who helped with the immediate needs of the kids. I knew that this group would be a priority for us on the return.
In preparing for the trip, one of the goals was to bring additional toys for the kids. A quick e-mail to my staff at SDSU yielded more than enough toys. We loaded the plane in San Diego with some of them and shipped the rest to our airport base in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Executive.
For this trip I borrowed a Piper Meridian, N113FT, from another friend, Horacio Valeiras, who generously offered the use of his airplane. On Friday March 12th, I departed from Montgomery Fields in San Diego for Florida, stopping in Plainview Texas where the airport operator, Rocket Aviation, generously provided fuel and even took my lunch order just before landing. Nicki Logan, a reporter for their local newspaper, The Plainview Daily, dropped by to talk about the flight for an article regarding Haiti. Continuing across to Florida, I stopped in Oklahoma City to pick up two relief workers who needed a lift to Florida, landing in Fort Lauderdale around midnight that evening.
Later that night, I received a phone call from Katie Gollotto, one of the volunteer physicians who worked with us on the evacuation of the patients from Jacmel. She had wonderful news! We had flown 6 children out on the medical evacuations and they were doing great. Daphka and Fania were now using their training prosthetics on their amputated legs. Marc, who had an external fixator frame and serious infections, was able to keep his leg and making great progress. Roseline and Odileson, who both had serious hip fractures were doing very well. We were especially concerned about Odileson since the initial prognosis was amputation of his leg and half of his pelvis due to severe infections in his hip. Even the baby, with the inoperable heart defect was improving. The two adults with the spinal fractures were making progress, with one of them already out of the hospital in Philadelphia. It was one of the best late-night calls I’ve ever received!