On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck Haiti, killing more than 220,000 people and injuring an estimated 300,000. The massive earthquake, the biggest the region had seen in 200 years, left more than 1.5 million people homeless, and resulted in an immense humanitarian crisis. NYC Medics deployed immediately, working with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other local and international organizations to pave the way for the first NYC mobile medical team to arrive—NYC Medics’ team of 10 seasoned, emergency care veterans transporting two tons of donated essential medicines and medical supplies across the border from the Dominican Republic.
Creating the model of mobile medical teams in disaster relief efforts five years earlier allowed NYC Medics’ teams to immediately begin working in the field. In less than 12 hours after arriving in Haiti, the NYC Medics team erected the first medical camp in a schoolyard in one of the worst-hit and dangerous areas of Port au Prince, Cite Militaire; in the first three days, NYC Medics volunteers treated more than 1,000 patients for a range of injuries, including severe crush injuries, fractures, and abrasions, anxiety, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
As the urgent needs in this community diminished, NYC Medics moved operations to a U.S. Army base near the airport, and joined patrols by the 82nd Airborne, moving from one IDP camp to the next, treating and transporting the worst medical cases. That first NYC Medics team ended its deployment by staffing the night shift at Hospital de L’Universite d’Haiti in Port au Prince. Three additional NYC Medics teams were then deployed, all working around the clock to ease the suffering of those survivors of the quake. They worked throughout Port au Prince as well as beyond the city borders in regions that had not received any form of humanitarian aid until the arrival of NYC Medics.
During the entirety of NYC Medics’ three-month Haiti mission, it directed four Emergency Medical Teams—53 medical professionals—and treated more than 12,000 survivors. NYC Medics teams also directed 15 emergency medical evacuations and cared, on average, for 350 patients per day. Additionally, NYC Medics managed the logistics and volunteer coordination of 69 medical personnel that supported local and international nonprofits throughout the country.
“After treating patients all day, we would then go out and work the lines of people that were still waiting for help, trying to identify any really sick people and treating as many others as we could,” recalls volunteer John McGlade, one of the medics on the teams NYC Medics sent to the disaster zone and to areas not being served by other groups. “After we packed up, we would then go out for the real trial of the day, to find a hospital to accept any patients that had not yet been transported. Since there were no ambulances, we had to depend on the military or on any other vehicle that was going near a treatment facility.” Recalls Dan Ramirez, another NYC Medics volunteer on the Haiti mission: “I’ve never seen another disaster relief group work as hard as NYC Medics. Their hunger to be where nobody goes, where folks have been forgotten, is one of a kind. They are frugal, smart, tough as nails, and they find ways to collaborate with both government agencies and other NGOs to effect change and save lives. I’m proud of our work in Haiti and I’m cheering this organization on in all of its efforts.