Editor's note: It has been a year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ripped through Haiti, leaving in its wake billions of dollars in damages and more than 300,000 dead, 1.5 million homeless and many recovering from serious injuries. In the weeks and months after the disaster, relief aid poured in from around the world, including from generous residents of Southwest Colorado. Local schools, churches, businesses and individuals took collections, held events and emptied piggy banks to contribute to the cause. In this three–day series, the Herald checks back with people whose involvement in Haiti has stretched beyond the initial weeks after the tragedy. Though the world's attention has waned over the year, these local individuals and organizations have continued to work to improve the desperate condition of the country and its people.
By Emery Cowan
Herald Staff Writer
In his 30 years traveling the world, Ron Ritz said his medical mission to Haiti was the most dramatic.
A local plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Ritz traveled to Haiti in February with Mission Outfitters, a Bayfield-based organization that facilitates short-term mission trips for individuals and churches.
The group was transferred to Jérémie, a small rural town west of Port-au-Prince. Thousands had fled to the town after the earthquake, overwhelming the one small, beat-up hospital, Ritz said.
The group brought medical equipment, and Ritz spent most of the eight-day trip creating skin grafts and closing wounds. Many people had traveled to Jérémie with open wounds that had gone untreated since the earthquake.
At the end of the trip, it was hard to leave because there was so much left to do, he said.
Since he got back, Ritz has kept in contact with Dr. St. ClairMarx Mignard, who worked with the group during their stay. The men update each other through e-mail, and Ritz has continued to send money to support the struggling St. Antoine Hospital.
From Marx's updates, Ritz knows that the situation hasn't improved much since he left.
“Basically, they have no money, they have no materials. He's trying to make do with what he's got,” Ritz said. “He's just working on a shoestring day to day.”
The doctor in Haiti is trying to set up a clinic to take care of cholera patients and is in constant need of money to buy medical equipment, Ritz said.
“News about Haiti just kind of faded into the background,” he said, but their problems are immense.
“They were bad to begin with, and they continue to get worse.”
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