After Haiti, Being Home “Dream-Like”

Six women from Southeastern Wisconsin catch military jet out of devastated country


Six southern Wisconsin women on a medical mission in Haiti landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Friday morning after catching a ride out of the devastated country on a military jet.

Jennifer Blahnik, a nurse from Madison, said coming home after such an ordeal was overwhelming.

"When we first stepped off of the -- out of the plane -- this felt dream-like to me.  We're overwhelmingly relieved and grateful and thankful, but worried at the same time.  We left a lot of people behind," she said, choking back tears.

The women, of the Beloit, Wis.,-based group Health Ministries for Haiti, had only been in the country for three days when the massive quake hit.

One of the women, Mary Parry, does interior design and said she traveled to Haiti to meet a little girl from an orphanage the ministry sponsored.

The group was staying with the director of a medical clinic in Croix Des Bouquets.  It's an area that couldd be described as a suburb of the capital city of Port-au-Prince and was just 10 miles from the quake's epicenter. 

Parry said the group had just finished eating dinner after a day of doing outreach when the house started to shake.

"We didn't know what was happening.  We kind of jumped up and dishes were flying and we went into a little doorway area and just prayed," Parry said.

"It was so strong it knocked us out of doorways and on to the porch.  [It was] just unbelievable," added Pamela Charles.

She said that almost immediately it seemed like they "were encircled in voices screaming."

The injured began showing up on the front lawn of the clinic by the dozens, the women said.  Theirs was the only building left standing on the street after the quake.

The victims were helpless, with crushed limbs, cuts and broken bones.

"The one little girl came with a neighbor and she had a severely fractured face.  And her mother and sister perished," Blahnik recalled.  

"I had a three-year-old girl with her hand so crushed that the tendons were showing, and all I could do was wash it with peroxide.  We're out in the street and standing in puddles of mud," said Charles.

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