Walla Walla doctors head for Haiti

A small group from the area headed to the earthquake-stricken nation, and may return later for a longer stretch.

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Dr. Ron Fleck, center, his wife, Bobbie, and Wade Brooks of Walla Walla City Seventh-day Adventist Church gather for a final word and prayer before sending off Fleck for a five-day volunteer trip to help earthquake victims in Haiti as part of the Adventist Medical Evangelistic Network Haiti Medical Team.

WALLA WALLA -- Four local physicians left for Haiti early Sunday as part of the Adventist Medical Evangelistic Network Haiti Medical Team to provide aid to earthquake victims.

Carrying very little personal luggage, but loaded with boxes and bags of supplies, Dr. Ron Fleck led the team, which included orthopedic surgeon Scott Hutson and general surgeons Jacqueline Tracey and Raquel Collins. Also joining the team later en route were West Side-based physician John McGhee and Spokane diesel engine mechanic Eddie Wickward.

The team members got the call on Friday that the Adventist Medical Evangelistic Network was putting a medical team together for five days of volunteer work in Haiti; the next two days were spent scrambling to pack, rescheduling appointments and collecting boxes of supplies, including antibiotics and morphine.

"We were told they are using IVs of vodka because they don't have any medications," Fleck said, while checking in almost a dozen bags and boxes of supplies marked "AMEN Haiti Team."

"He took very little clothes. He is going to wear scrubs the whole time," Fleck's wife, Bobbie, said, only minutes after she watched her husband walk through the security gate at Walla Walla Regional Airport. She also noted that her husband regularly travels to developing nations to provide medical aid, and that the Haiti trip would not be his first time to serve in a disaster situation.

In 1980, Fleck served with a team of physicians sent to Cambodia, where aid was provided in refugee camps for victims of the oppressive Khmer Rouge and its leader, Pol Pot, she said.

Though the AMEN team will head back Thursday, there is a strong possibility that some of the physicians may return for a longer visit, Hutson said.

"Everything is such a disaster down there," Hutson said, while checking in. "This is just a chance to go down there and see what it is like. I wouldn't be surprised if we go down again and stay for months."

When asked why he is going on the volunteer trip, Hutson said, "You listen to the news and what do they say they need most? Orthopedic surgeons. I am an orthopedic surgeon and I am just sitting on my comfortable chair watching."

A group of 30 people, most with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was also at the airport Sunday morning to watch and pray for the four team members as they departed.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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