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MeritCare team returns from Haiti

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The 6-year-old girl with casts covering her legs and hips was "just a delight" in the hospital for Haiti earthquake victims, Dr. Jon Larson said.

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"She was right by the door when you came into the ward, so she was the first one you saw, and she always had a great big smile," said Larson, a MeritCare family medicine physician.

In the same hospital lay a girl who had one of her arms amputated after the quake destroyed her home, killing about a dozen people inside and leaving her as the lone survivor.

"She was pretty devastated, and it was often difficult to tell: Is she having physical pain, or is this emotional pain?" Larson said.

Larson and three other medical professionals from Fargo-based MeritCare returned Sunday to Fargo's Hector International Airport after spending a week treating 10 quake victims in the Dominican Republic city of Baharona.

Larson said the team was well-prepped for the trip and entered a "pretty controlled and pretty stable environment" at the small hospital, which was actually a converted clinic.

The air-conditioned facility was nice and clean, said Larson, who lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

"The operating room was probably comparable to an operating room in rural North Dakota in the mid- to late '80s, as far as equipment goes," he said.

The children, ages 6 to 17, had been airlifted to the hospital by the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The MeritCare team provided them with continuing care for a variety of injuries, including fractures, open wounds and amputations. All of the kids are expected to survive, Larson said.

The team consisted of Larson, a physical therapist and two nurse anesthetists. They were working through Children of the Nations, a group that provides relief for orphaned and destitute children, according to its Web site.

"It was a positive experience for everyone involved, most definitely," Larson said.

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