One tragic result of the recent earthquake in Haiti is the number of children left not only without homes, but without parents. The thought of those orphans — estimated to be in the tens of thousands — has been on the mind of Karianna Wilson, an Edmonds resident and mother of two toddlers. So when an opportunity came to travel to Haiti on a humanitarian mission, she didn’t hesitate. On Friday afternoon, Wilson will accompany a 15-member team of physicians, nurses and logistical support staff from Northwest Physicians Network (NPN) to Haiti, where they will spend a week providing desperately needed medical care to the Haitian people.
Wilson, who is Chief Operating Officer of Northwest Physicians Network and also happens to be married to Edmonds City Councilmember D.J. Wilson, said that one of the NPN doctors is acquainted with a Haitian physician, Dr. Leo, who runs an orphanage in the Haitian city of Cap-Haitien. She volunteered to go along to provide administrative support and help in whatever other ways she can.
The eight-day trip will mark the longest time that Wilson has been away from her children, 3-year-old Karsten and 21-month-old Annika. Karsten “knows I’m going to be gone for a while,” Wilson said. “We told him that Mommy’s going to go help other kids.”
The team plans to be in Port au Prince for three days, then head north to Cap-Haitien and Plaine du Nord. While less structural damage occurred in these cities, many of the wounded taken there have been neglected because medical teams now in the country have been focused on Port au Prince, and transportation to outlying areas is limited.
To ensure their safety, Wilson said, Dr. Leo has arranged for a police officer to escort them to Cap-Haitien and the team will also be accompanied by two security guards. The NPN team is led by Dr. Stan Flemming, a Tacoma board-certified family physician and veteran of numerous humanitarian missions around the world. He believes their first actions will be to treat neglected wounds and rising disease. Their range of expertise includes family medicine, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, psychology and emergency medical training. Some of the physicians bring disaster relief experience, although for many, this will be their first time treating patients in a disaster setting.
The NPN Foundation, the 501 (c) 3 arm of NPN, collected donations for the group’s logistical support; however, most participants are covering their own expenses.
Wilson is scheduled to return from Haiti with the team on Saturday, Feb. 6, and said that she and her husband hope to figure out a way to establish a long-term relationship to assist the Haitian people.