By Sarah Ruddle
I am currently sitting in the Orlando airport staring and trying to make sense of what I just saw, smelled and experienced. I am looking at an airport terminal with an ice cream shop, BK, a pizza shop, a coney restaurant, Outback steakhouse, a shoe shiner, countless kiosks and a massage parlor. I have showered once in the past week and it was by dumping a bucket of dirty water over my head, so now I am turning heads with my ripe stench. I don't care. In fact I welcome the stares and wish I could explain what is taking place in my heart and how I earned this smell.
Haiti is the poorest country in our part of the world and with a population of about 10 million people it does not even have a single trained pediatric neurosurgeon. The past week I stood in awe of surgeons who worked round the clock to treat people who otherwise would die from illnesses, injuries and diseases easily treated in America. I treated the "mild conditions" and saw infections that were so bad it was making legs and feet swell to the point of cracking open in order to relieve the pressure the puss was causing. There were countless times I had to excuse myself, walk outside to vomit,and come back inside to continue treating the never ending line of people waiting in the 90 degree heat in hopes of finding help. The smell....that will be described later,as my limited vocabulary and tired mind cannot adequately describe that.
I had been to Haiti prior to this trip, but knew going into this it would be powerful and like nothing I have ever experienced due to the recent hurricane. The trip itself has brought so many emotions—anxiety, joy, heartbreak and immense gratitude, and my journey has been etched in pen and, or course, written on napkins (the torch was a dream written on a napkin, so my notes now go on napkins). Over the course of the next few days I know people will ask about the trip, and honestly, I dread having to try and explain this to the 180 students tomorrow knowing I will fail and am too emotionally raw to begin to try. I hope to share with you,at least some small part of this incredible experience and through my words and pictures you will be able to travel to Haiti and that we can begin to work more eagerly, earnestly and selflessly help those around us. We don't need to go to Haiti to help others, we just need to actually see others, value them and make it a priority to help.
Please know - you have the power to change, inspire and serve others. We live in a world where people try to get you to focus on the darkness and we forget the power of the light. Let's be bolder than darkness.