As Thoroughbred owner/breeder Earle I. Mack saw and read reports about the difficulty of the relief efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people, he felt a call to action.
He knew that getting supplies and medical personnel into the country, and then immediately dispersing them to where they were needed was nearly impossible considering the devastation throughout the country. What was most noticeable to Mack was the inability for much progress to be made, considering transportation routes were impacted by the quake’s damage and most of the hospitals serving the major city of Port-au-Prince were severely damaged.
Mack reasoned that if there was some way to speed up the process of getting trauma physicians, surgeons, and medical supplies into the country and help save even one life it would be worth the cost and effort.
Mack, who is also a successful businessman and philanthropist, began working the phones from his home in Palm Beach, Fla. As a result of his efforts, which included hours of being put on hold or waiting to talk to the right person who could help him, jets chartered by Mack are now transporting doctors and antibiotics into the main airport in Haiti. From there, they are being transported by helicopter to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti, a facility some 90 miles north of Port-au-Prince that was unharmed by the natural disaster.
The first two planes--one carrying five surgeons, two surgeon assistants, and Mack--and the other loaded with more than 1,000 pounds of antibiotics--landed in Haiti on Sunday, Jan. 17. The second flights chartered by Mack through Galaxy Aviation of Palm Beach are scheduled to go Wednesday, Jan. 20.
“If you could save one life or even one limb by getting an extra physician or trauma surgeon there in time, the whole trip is worthwhile,” said Mack, who had never been to Haiti prior to accompanying the first of his charter planes there Jan. 17. “It is a terrible situation and the faster you act the more lives you are going to save. I just felt that as a public servant, I had to do what I could.”
Using contacts within the medical profession, Mack arranged for the surgeons and physicians to come from all parts of the U.S. to assist him. One of the biggest concerns of the volunteers, who will face some of the same health risks and food shortages plaguing the Haitian people while they are there, was how they would get out of the country once their service was complete. Once again, Mack stepped up and promised to send planes to bring them home.
With the Port-au-Prince airport severely damaged by the quake and being used to get help into the country, one of the biggest challenges faced by Mack in organizing his relief efforts was getting his planes into the country. He said that entailed many hours of work on the telephone and that he had to use some of the government connections he made when he was the U.S. ambassador to Finland to get the job done.
“Obtaining a landing spot has been next to impossible,” he noted. “You just have to be patient.”
While Mack is funding and coordinating the mission, he said his part is not nearly as heroic as that of the volunteers and those who are providing the supplies going to Haiti.
“Some of these surgeons are going there for as long as a week. They don’t know where they will stay or whether there will be food for them, but they are so dedicated. They just want to go and save lives. They are the real heroes.”
Mack said he plans to continue his flights to Haiti as long as they are needed. Hopefully, he said, other operations will become more streamlined and organized within the next week so that his efforts will no longer be necessary.
“Time is of essence. I see this as a window until the situation is stabilized,” Mack said.
Mack said he is not surprised by the millions of dollars and other forms of assistance pouring into Haiti from other countries, especially the U.S.
“This country was born with the ethic of wanting to help,” Mack said.
Mack is unable to accept and does not want any money to fund what he is doing. He is however, in need of volunteer trauma physicians, surgeons and medical supplies. There is a dire need of antibiotics if anyone can provide them, Mack said.
“These people are human beings and deserve to be saved. The Haitian people are good, peaceful people.”
Anyone fitting the criteria needed to help Mack or who has the supplies he is seeking can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org