The great roar sounded like the end of the world.
At first Jim and Sandy Wilkins thought the shaking was coming from the generator for their second-floor apartment in Gressier, Haiti. Then ceiling tiles began to drop and the floor cracked apart. They leaped to safety through a hole that had opened in the wall.
Within minutes, the first truckload of injured arrived at what was left of their medical clinic.
The victims were mostly children, Sandy Wilkins, 54, wrote in a text message to her family in southeast Kansas. Gruesome injuries: crushed skulls, torn-off limbs. Tiny children, some dead, some paralyzed forever.
"Six people died in our immediate work. Many more will. Many open fractures. Two little girls paralyzed, horrible lacerations that you cannot imagine. … They come in droves, desperate for help. … We had only two docs, although our eye doc is sewing up head lacerations. … We are exhausted. We have almost no supplies and medicines left. Please pray for us."
Sandy, a nurse, and Jim, 59, a family physician, moved to Gressier from Girard, Kan., 11 years ago.
Haiti needs us, they told friends and family. They had been on medical missions to many places, but Haiti grabbed their hearts.
Investing their life savings in a tiny patch of land, they set up a clinic in the area nicknamed Christianville, west of Port-au-Prince. They embraced the hardships of their new home.
Just last year, their nonprofit Haiti Health Ministries Inc. treated more than 25,000 patients. A typical day began with people lining up at 4 a.m. to see a doctor.
Now the clinic is destroyed, along with medical equipment that took years to buy. Their supplies of medicine are buried under rubble.
But patients keep coming.
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