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Detroit Lakes doctor in Haiti helping relief effort

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In the past, when there's been a natural disaster in other parts of the United States or the world, Dr. Jon Larson has wanted to help out. This time, he's able to.

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Larson, who is a family medicine provider at the Detroit Lakes MeritCare, and three other doctors from other MeritCare locations are traveling to help Haiti. They left Friday evening from Fargo, stayed the night in New York and then headed overseas Saturday morning. They will be there until Feb. 13, helping at a makeshift pediatrics hospital in Barahona, located near the south coast of the Dominican Republic.

"Initially, a medical school classmate, who is in emergency, said he was going and sent out an e-mail (to see if others were interested)." Larson said.

He responded with interest, as did several other employees. Looking at backgrounds and what the staff members could provide, four were chosen.

"I think my previous military experience was a factor," Larson said of being chosen.

The others include Brian Skjerseth, physical therapy at MeritCare Broadway Health Center; Ann Baumeister, certified registered nurse anesthetist with MeritCare Hospital; and Susan Greene, CRNA with MeritCare Hospital and MeritCare South University.

"Initially, we were supposed to go the week after the earthquake," Larson said. But, due to logistics, the team wasn't able to go at that time and had to wait until now.

In the past, "I could probably go and help but I never had the where-with-all to go," Larson said. This time though, he was able to go through work. Not to mention, it works with his personal life, too.

"My kids are grown so I'm not leaving my wife with kids in diapers. It's easier from a personal perspective," he added.

From a professional perspective, Larson said his colleagues have been very supportive and are shuffling in his patients.

"The whole clinic is affected but supportive," he said. "Everyone has contributed to making this happen."

More information on the Children Of The Nations International, the organization Sanford Health and MeritCare are teamed with, can be found at www.cotni.org. Sanford Health and MeritCare have set up a Haiti Relief Fund, and donations can be made to MeritCare Foundation, PO Box MC, Fargo, ND 58122-0302.

Any expectations?

"Not exactly. I try not to imagine" what it will be like too much because it's always different than one imagines, Larson said.

He has practiced Third World medicine while in the military, so he's used to working in lesser conditions.

"Whatever comes is fine," he said, adding that he's lived in tents and taken care of a 100 wounded in other conditions, so this won't be difficult. The team even has a list of the patients they will be seeing in the hospital.

The children they will see have orthopedic needs and wound and infection needs.

"I've wanted to do this for a long time. It's one of the reasons I got into medicine," Larson said. "People say it's a humbling experience, and now I know what that means."

As of Friday morning, Larson hadn't met his team yet, but would a few hours later when they met to fly out of Fargo together.

"It doesn't seem like it will be long enough," Larson said was the only downfall. "I'm very much looking forward to it."

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