McMinn finds hope for Haiti

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

“When I first heard of the earthquake in Haiti,” said Martha McMinn of Montevallo, “God laid on my heart that I must help these people — something more than pray or send money.” Suddenly she realized she already had a passport and the necessary immunizations, so all this determined nurse needed was the easily-gained permissions from her boss and her husband.

She found several agencies going to Haiti that needed volunteers. The first to contact her was a group from the Southern Baptist State Convention. In a few days she was on her way.

McMinn joined a team of three doctors, two other nurses and a disaster chaplain. One of the nurses was Susan Alexander of Calera. She and McMinn were already friends and co-workers at Shelby-Baptist Medical Center.

After a long flight and an eight hour bus ride, they arrived in Port Au Prince and found that the immediate need was for a clinic in a tent city of more than 3,000 people — hungry, dehydrated, sick people. The team first set up the clinic in an open area but later they relocated to sheltered quarters. Their work required medicines, but they had brought no medicine, just bandages and wound care materials. They were able to trade with a hospital their supplies for medicines.

The routine was for the patients to talk with one of the nurses, see a doctor, and go on to the pharmacy where McMinn gave them medicine and instructions. Each member of the team had an interpreter; McMinn’s was a most helpful pharmacy student whose education had been interrupted by the earthquake.

McMinn reported the scenery was beautiful, but conditions horrible. One lady had not eaten in three days, the weather was hot and everything was dusty and dirty, but the people were appreciative and loving. They had had very little help; the UN had been there once, but had brought supplies for only 1,000 people.

The team treated everything, from heartburn to cleaning wounds and minor surgeries. In the four and a half days, they saw 700 patients and distributed 2,100 medicine packets — a 30-day supply.

The living conditions for the team were adequate. They stayed in a mission compound with beds, running water, electricity, toilets and were served two meals a day.

“The trip was good, bad, happy, sad, encouraging, discouraging,” said McMinn. “When I became discouraged, I had my little pity-party and then God gave me the courage to go on.”

One day she saw a child making a kite of scrap paper and sticks. Then she saw more kites in the air – the children were playing again – a God-given sign to her that there is hope.

Catherine Legg can be reached at