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Local surgeon fights to save lives in Haiti
Country is 'absolute disaster'
Dr hogan
Local surgeon Michael Hogan cares for an injured woman in Haiti. Hogan traveled to the ravaged country with Conscience International. - photo by Submitted
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The first phase is for saving lives.

The second is for saving limbs.

The third is to improve function.

That, as Michael Hogan explained, is the way physicians working in Haiti are handling the situation.

The local orthopedic surgeon returned Thursday night from the island country ravaged by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake Jan. 12.

“It is an absolute disaster,” he said.

When he arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport Jan. 17, the only supplies available were the ones he and others had brought. After three days, supplies started coming in.

“U.S. military started coming in and they dwarfed everything, everybody just put together,” he said.

Hogan said the roads are covered with fallen buildings, and he saw “mountains of people who were injured.”

He left for the country Jan. 16 with Conscience International, a charitable organization run by James Jennings of Gainesville.

As a part of similar relief efforts, Hogan has traveled with the group to Iran, Pakistan and Turkey after earthquakes.

“The significant difference between this one and some of the previous ones is the amount of infection we saw,” he said.

Hogan was operating within 10 minutes of being asked if he could help at a field hospital in the United Nations compound next to the airport.

He and the group he was with intended to go to a clinic out of the main city, “but you couldn’t get through Port-au-Prince.”

“So as soon as I found a place to work I just stayed there,” he said.

Doctors amputated limbs from patients as young as 2 years old to those in their 70s.

Though he and the doctors he worked with were able to save the patients they operated on, he said the air was full of the stench of dead bodies.

“We went by one place and there were 14 bodies just laying there,” he said.

As if the country hadn’t suffered enough, Wednesday morning brought a magnitude-6.1 aftershock.

Hogan had just gotten dressed for the day.

“You could hardly stand up and people bounced out of deep sleeps,” he said. “An earthquake is noisy and frightening, but there’s nothing you can do.”

Though there have been ongoing efforts to rescue people from debris, Hogan said he doesn’t think many more will come out alive.

Jennings said Conscience International has participated in emergency relief efforts in countries ravaged by war and natural disasters worldwide.

Flowery Branch resident Al Nixon joined Jennings and Hogan on last week's trip.

Jennings said Nixon, the organization’s logistics director, served as a bomber pilot in Vietnam and was the Red Cross coordinator for disaster assistance in Fulton County for several years.

Nixon had planned to fly the three to Haiti himself, but that idea was scratched because of inclement weather.

Jennings said Haiti’s population density, the earthquake’s destructive force and the poverty there made it a “complex emergency times two.”

“What we’ve seen is just as incredibly tragic, as everybody knows, but to see it close up and to see the blood and endure the stench and the flies and the maggots, just to be very blunt, it shows you that there are a lot of suffering people that need our help,” he said.

“Frankly, I’ve seen a tremendous outpouring from the American people.”

Jennings said several mission groups that were in Haiti before the earthquake have ramped up their efforts.

He said downtown Port-au-Prince is destroyed and the government in Haiti isn’t functioning. He was concerned that the help could lessen in the near future.

“I think the world’s attention will be diverted elsewhere within a number of weeks and the problems will still be there,” he said. “I’ve said before there’s not enough money to address these problems.

"There’s enough money in the world if there [was] the political will to do it and it starts by acting on conscience.”

Jennings said the organization has planned a return trip to Haiti with another team of doctors on Thursday.