Local doctor returns from Haiti, with plans to go back

Alisha Morrissey
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The streets of Haiti look this week like they do in St. John's after a plow makes a single cut after a big snowstorm.

Only it's not light, fluffy snow driven back to the sides of the roads in Port-au-Prince, it's heavy, unforgiving concrete, says Dr. Robert Walley, an obstetrician and the founder of the aid organization MaterCare International.

Dr. Robert Walley helps treat a patient's broken wrist, while Dr. Mark Kelly from Rhode Island looks on. - Photo courtesy MaterCare International

The streets of Haiti look this week like they do in St. John's after a plow makes a single cut after a big snowstorm.

Only it's not light, fluffy snow driven back to the sides of the roads in Port-au-Prince, it's heavy, unforgiving concrete, says Dr. Robert Walley, an obstetrician and the founder of the aid organization MaterCare International.

Walley returned to Canada Tuesday night from Haiti, where he and his son are attempting to set up a potentially mobile maternity ward, following a massive earthquake that rocked the Caribbean country Jan. 12.

"Everyone assumes that motherhood stops when there's been a catastrophe," Walley said. "Women go on. She's going to have a baby when she's going to have a baby."

He says being in Haiti was nothing like watching the aftermath of the disaster on the news.

"The trouble is we talk in populations and in cities, but now you saw the individuals, the individuals suffering," Walley said. "Babies and little children and adults with terrible crush injuries of limbs and stuff, and you had to do the best you could, and all you hear is their screams."

He says there are patients wall-to-wall in makeshift clinics, not far away from refugee camps with hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped quarters in tents.

He talks about the buildings that crumbled with people inside.

"There was the sort of panic of mothers," he said, explaining the chaos. "People walking around looking for their babies, 'Are they dead? Are they alive? Have they been stolen?'

"The mothers, they have nowhere to deliver. If their houses have been destroyed and the hospitals have been destroyed, they deliver in the street. It's appalling.

"What you do experience, and this is something I've never experienced in my life, is the smell of death. It's a stench," Walley said.

Children he treated were in agony, he said, but they'd smile at him through the pain.

"We had to take one down to the hospital. She had a fractured femur and an awful ... we thought she had a spinal fracture. She didn't. But she had a huge laceration, and she never whimpered. She never cried," Walley said.

"A priest said yesterday, he asked the question, 'Do you know why these people are happy? ... because they have got nothing left to lose.'"

Walley and his son, Simon, went to Port-au-Prince for a week to assess the area and decide how best they could help.

He says there are plenty of doctors and nurses wanting to go, but they're still working out the logistics of where they will live, what they will eat and whether they will be secure.

Walley said his organization, MaterCare International, could use some volunteers to help with planning and fundraising for the trip back in about two weeks.

"It was a disaster and now you've got this catastrophe on top of it," Walley said. "Your heart goes out, and everybody wants to go down there and change the world."

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Haiti, Port-au-Prince, St. John's Canada Caribbean

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Recent comments

  • cnmnancy
    April 13, 2012 - 00:10

    Wow. What ignorance from a commenter. Haiti- before the earthquake already had a deplorable amount of illness and maternal morbidity and mortality.There were NOT enough trained birth attendants, nor the supplies needed to care for the moms and babies. In JUNE 2010 I gave up my vacation time and left my family to help. That was 5 months after the earthquake. Most places still without clean uncontaminated water, no electricity, people- thousands upon thousands living in tents on the dirt floor . The teaching hospitals with the midwives and doctors had collapsed and they had been killed. The MSF maternity hospital had been evacuated due to damage and they were operating and deliverinv babies inbut a damaged building. Totally NOT ENOUGH midwives or doctors there. There still are not, 2 yrs later.

  • sophia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Worth pointing out that Haiti has midwives and that there is obstetrical care there. Worth also pointing out that the good doctor's contention (made in public comments yesterday), that there are no other obstetrical care clinics/hospitals being erected is entirely false. The difference is that the others are not governed by Catholic principles of morality, and thus dispense birth control and deal with issues related to abortion.

    While I comment those whoa re able to help, I despise those who spread misinformation to further their own cause.

  • Sandra
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I am glad Sarah pointed out the things I was thinking about the negative comments posted...sometimes people have no understanding of the process involved with helping in this kind of situation ....

  • James
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I'm sure your help will be very much appreciated it Haiti, Robert and Simon. It must be a very traumatic experience for everyone concerned.

  • Denean
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Dr. Walley and his Simon have spent tremoundous amount of time in countries that no one would ever want to vacation. Their families have been left behind to worry for their safety on numerous occasions and I think it's wonderful that they spent a week in Haiti for relief efforts. They saw sights and heard noises that aren't even imaginable to our everyday life. Good job Dr. Walley and Simon.....

  • Sandra
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I commend Dr. Walley & Simon for their committed compassion to this cause under such stressful conditions. I wish them well and hope they receive the necessary financial and moral support needed to succeed & proceed with this venture.

  • Sheila
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Yeah Willie, you sound like a real winner!! NOT.

  • Sarah
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    So do I take it you are on your way back down to Haiti Willie? What an ignorant comment to make. Dr. Walley was NOT there for a vacation!!! He was asked to go just after the earthquake occurred and he immediately dropped everything he was doing and arranged to be there. His goal was to locate hospital space and determine the immediate needs of the women of Haiti, his area of expertise. He has done just that but needed to return home to organize funding, equipment and possible staff, so he can better help. No point in trying to help unless they are equipped to do so. Dr Walley did assist with other injuries while in Haiti, but as his focus is on obstetrics, it would not be helping those mothers to be for him to stay longer and continue to help with the general casualties. Oh and since you don't pay attention, he plans to go back down there in 2 weeks to continue his work. He cannot look for donations and staffing if he is in Haiti as their communications are down and internet and phone use is at a minimum. Perhaps you should fully read a story before you add such an asinine comment.

  • Willie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Home already? I spent more time in Haiti on my last vacation than he did on this trip.
    If you're making a big deal out of going down to help you are better off staying down there more than a couple of hours than just going for the air-points.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

  • sophia
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Worth pointing out that Haiti has midwives and that there is obstetrical care there. Worth also pointing out that the good doctor's contention (made in public comments yesterday), that there are no other obstetrical care clinics/hospitals being erected is entirely false. The difference is that the others are not governed by Catholic principles of morality, and thus dispense birth control and deal with issues related to abortion.

    While I comment those whoa re able to help, I despise those who spread misinformation to further their own cause.

  • Sandra
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I am glad Sarah pointed out the things I was thinking about the negative comments posted...sometimes people have no understanding of the process involved with helping in this kind of situation ....

  • James
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    I'm sure your help will be very much appreciated it Haiti, Robert and Simon. It must be a very traumatic experience for everyone concerned.

  • Denean
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Dr. Walley and his Simon have spent tremoundous amount of time in countries that no one would ever want to vacation. Their families have been left behind to worry for their safety on numerous occasions and I think it's wonderful that they spent a week in Haiti for relief efforts. They saw sights and heard noises that aren't even imaginable to our everyday life. Good job Dr. Walley and Simon.....

  • Sandra
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    I commend Dr. Walley & Simon for their committed compassion to this cause under such stressful conditions. I wish them well and hope they receive the necessary financial and moral support needed to succeed & proceed with this venture.

  • Sheila
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Yeah Willie, you sound like a real winner!! NOT.

  • Sarah
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    So do I take it you are on your way back down to Haiti Willie? What an ignorant comment to make. Dr. Walley was NOT there for a vacation!!! He was asked to go just after the earthquake occurred and he immediately dropped everything he was doing and arranged to be there. His goal was to locate hospital space and determine the immediate needs of the women of Haiti, his area of expertise. He has done just that but needed to return home to organize funding, equipment and possible staff, so he can better help. No point in trying to help unless they are equipped to do so. Dr Walley did assist with other injuries while in Haiti, but as his focus is on obstetrics, it would not be helping those mothers to be for him to stay longer and continue to help with the general casualties. Oh and since you don't pay attention, he plans to go back down there in 2 weeks to continue his work. He cannot look for donations and staffing if he is in Haiti as their communications are down and internet and phone use is at a minimum. Perhaps you should fully read a story before you add such an asinine comment.

  • Willie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Home already? I spent more time in Haiti on my last vacation than he did on this trip.
    If you're making a big deal out of going down to help you are better off staying down there more than a couple of hours than just going for the air-points.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

    • David Walley
      February 27, 2013 - 16:40

      Blimey WILLIE by your comments I am surprised you know where Haiti is. Albeit you went down there for a vacation, my brother and father did not! What they are doing for people not just in Haiti but worldwide is completely mind blowing! You need to take a look at the website (www.matercare.org) and this I think will explain the important work they do! I feel if you make comment like these towards people that have compassion for life you should think about going for another holiday in Haiti. May be the beer money you spend might help someone!!!