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Doctors helping Haiti kids

The hospital they served at ­in Barahana, Dominican Republic, was a converted clinic. They children they cared for during the week there were specially picked to stay at the hospital because of their severe injuries. A few were transported to Santo Domingo for even more complicated care. Larson said teams of hospital personnel from around the United States took turns volunteering at the Barahana hospital.

Returning from the Dominican Republic a week ago, MeritCare doctor Jon Larson said the week he helped Haiti victims was not enough.

He said he "absolutely" wished he could have stayed on a week longer, but, there is a possibility he could return next month.

Larson and three other MeritCare personnel traveled to Barahona, Dominican Republic, to help children injured in the Haiti earthquake that had been transferred there. Larson works in the Detroit Lakes MeritCare, and the three others worked in Fargo, so when they met in Fargo to fly out, it was the first time they were meeting.

"It was the first time we had laid eyes on each other," he said.

The other staff included 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. They were also joined by a physical therapist from New Hampshire.

Larson said it was kind of "pandemonium" at the airport, getting everyone checked in, and there was of course extra screening because of the medications they brought with.

"It was actually easier getting it through in New York than here in Fargo."

They flew from Fargo to Minneapolis to New York, where they spent the night. The next morning they flew to Santo Domingo.

"We didn't see any of Haiti, unfortunately or fortunately, depends on how you look at it," he said.

From the airport, a four-hour bus ride to Barahona, where the clinic was located, was "probably the most dangerous part of it," he said with a laugh. There are no speed limits, no stop signs, no rules. "You kind of do whatever you want."

They stayed at a compound about five minutes from the clinic, which both were air conditioned. Larson said it was in the 80s almost the whole time they were there.

The first night in Barahona, which is about 80 miles from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, they met the team -- a dozen people from Seattle and the Orange County, Calif. areas -- who had served at the clinic before them and were briefed on the patients. The next morning, they were introduced the children they would be caring for, and the "first two hours was just a whirlwind."

Larson said they got close with the kids, seeing them every day and taking them to the "happy room," where the kids would help change their own wound dressings. Some of the children were there dealing with amputations or pain management for crushed limbs and nerves.

The kids were there because they were handpicked by doctors as the sickest kids in the most need. There were 13 children initially, but a few were sent on to Santo Domingo for surgeries that couldn't be handled in Barahona.

They also saw outpatients during their time there.

Where they were in Santa Domingo, there was no sign of an earthquake.

"I thought it would be busier. It was much more controlled and static," Larson said. "Everything was pretty much straight forward day-to-day."

It wasn't all work though. The last day they were in town, the group went to the market, a house built by Christopher Columbus and other sites of Santo Domingo.

Larson said his trip was a cooperative effort of a lot of people -- his wife, the community, his colleagues, etc. -- "everybody has a little piece of it."