By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Each year Bettendorf’s St. John Vianney Parish medical mission serves more people in Jean-Denis, Haiti. This year 18 people from the Bettendorf parish and other area parishes were part of a group of 26 volunteers who served more than 1,800 people from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7.
Ann Wester, chair of the mission, said volunteers anticipated seeing 1,500 people — 1,000 more than in 2014. Instead, the group took care of 1,821 patients at the medical clinic. In addition, 298 patients were seen in the dental clinic for extractions. The group also distributed 511 pairs of glasses.
Wester said following the Saturday evening Mass, volunteers began to set up the medical clinic inside Our Lady of the Rosary Church. The dental clinic was set up in the community center for tooth extractions.
From Sunday through Thursday afternoon medical patients lined up with tickets distributed by their pastor, Father Jean Solomon. The Haitians were treated for respiratory and other infections, high blood pressure, stomach and other general pains.
An area medical clinic sent a nurse to help for two days and one physician for a day. Wester said the St. John Vianney group is collaborating with the area clinic and working to build a relationship.
Diane and Kevin Cassatt of St. John Vianney Parish are both pharmacists who went on the mission trip.
“Kevin and I had always been interested in doing a mission trip and when St. John Vianney’s group started going to Haiti after the earthquake, it seemed like a great opportunity to get involved. To be completely honest, I was scared to death so going together was great,” Diane said.
“As it turns out, my fears were exaggerated. Everyone on our team was wonderful. In looking around the church/clinic, I felt like we had one goal, and that was to help every person that walked through the church doors.”
Diane’s favorite part of the week was attending church and worshiping together with the people of Jean-Denis. “The singing is so beautiful, too. It makes me smile just knowing that we are connected through Christ.”
Krystal Bagge of St. John Vianney Parish grew up hearing about an annual mission trip organized by her home parish in Dyersville. Four years at Notre Dame University “instilled in me a love of travel, deepened my Catholic faith and encouraged me to work to make a difference in the lives of people.” Participating in a mission trip to Guatemala in 2013 inspired her to see that she could combine a love for travel with helping those in need.
“When I moved to the Quad Cities in July 2013, I was ecstatic when I heard that St. John Vianney took a mission trip to Haiti. I was at a point in my life when I no longer just wanted to hear about trips to Haiti; I wanted to be a part of such a trip.”
Bagge was amazed to see children and adults who had been working just hours beforehand arrive clean and dressed in their best clothes for Mass and to attend the clinic. “Not only did the Haitians put on their best clothes to see the doctors, they never complained about the hours they had to spend waiting in the heat with little to no food and water. These people were just gracious for the opportunity to see a doctor and have their problems relieved, if only for a little while, with Ibuprofen and other simple medicines.”
She felt rewarded to see smiles on the patients’ faces when they found a pair of glasses that allowed them to see or when they experienced relief from a horrible toothache or an infection.
Doug Buster of Ss. Mary & Mary Parish in Muscatine kept a journal about his experience of the trip.
He noted that following Mass the group unpacked 40 duffle bags of medical supplies for the clinic. He helped assemble pre-made medicine packets for faster distribution during the week and was assigned to be a dental assistant.
“I learned how to sterilize dental tools and set up the trays for each dentist. We have one American dentist (Jim) and three Haitian dentists with two interpreters. … Patients started coming in around 8:30 a.m. I was originally going to be the sterilizing guy but was quickly recruited to assist one of the Haitian dentists. We extracted teeth on almost every patient. Two patients needed multiple teeth pulled.”
While on the medical mission, the group visited the school that St. John Vianney has been supporting. The government has allowed the school to stay open another year despite its poor physical condition, Wester said. Construction for a new school started in late 2014 but is at a standstill because of lack of funds.
As the mission finished up, the group debriefed and spent time on a beach before heading back to the United States. “You can see what Haiti can be,” she said.