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Ripon team may head for Haiti to provide care for victims

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POSTED January 19, 2010 2:05 a.m.

RIPON - Dr. Kent Hufford of Ripon has put a medical team together scheduled to fly to earthquake ravaged Haiti Wednesday night – a trip that now may or may not happen.

Six and possibly seven medical professionals have signed on with Operation Double Harvest in Haiti that operates a medical clinic there located half an hour east of Port-au-Prince near the town of Croix des Bouquets.  Four members of the group are medical professionals now practicing in the Ripon community.

A last minute call from Operation Double Harvest Monday afternoon alerted the Ripon physician to a lack of jet fuel in the Dominican Republic that might keep the group from returning to the United States after their week’s work is completed.  The fuel shortage is reportedly related to the number of flights coming in and out of the area on their way to Haiti.  

Hufford said the alternative may be to take commercial flights to get into the country, but that cost might be too prohibitive for the operation without added support.   Their goal is to see as many patients as possible throughout  the week who are in need of a general practice medical team.

Two medical assistants from Hufford’s Ripon office, sisters Melissa and Sarah Tye, are planning to join in the missionary effort as is Bethany Home Director of Nurses Gaya Forrest.  She had been assisting Dr. Hufford on his rounds at the Ripon nursing facility last Wednesday when she asked if he had given any consideration toward going to Haiti.  He had and she offered to join him on what is being described as a mission of mercy.

A nurse practitioner from Orlando, Georgia, is also part of the medical team.  On past medical missionary trips to Romania and Honduras she assisted Dr. Hufford and Ripon’s Dr. Daryl Dutter.  Hufford said he had kept in contact and it only took a simple phone call to get her on board.

The Operation Double Harvest in Haiti since 1987 helped make the travel arrangements for the Ripon team that hopefully will be leaving San Francisco International Airport Wednesday night enroute to Miami , Florida.  They are going to be changing planes there and flying on to the Dominican Republic.  U.S. Army helicopters are going to ferry them to the Port-au-Prince area.

Bethany Home general manager Andrew Lee said that the home and the staff members are excited to stand behind their volunteering director of nurse  in this venture.  “It’s going to be intense for her,” he said.  “I’m sure it’s an emotionally intense time to be down there and face all the devastation.”

Gaya Forrest first signed onto nursing staff at Bethany home in a part-time position 20 years ago and has served as the director of nurses for the past 10 of the years.

She said she appreciates Bethany Home giving her time off and for donating medical supplies that the team can take along with them.  Forrest added that when she first told her immediate supervisor Barbara Camping she wanted to go, her response was:  “Absolutely, you go!”

Camping added, “We’re so proud.  They all have a heart for missions.”

The Forrest family has a spot in their hearts for mission work.  Daughter June Forrest – a high school teacher – is currently in Argentina where she is attending a language school.   Husband Greg went to Cambodia some five years ago where he served in a mission activity.  Bethany’s director of nurses first worked for Doctors Medical Center in Modesto 30 years ago where she assisted in the delivery of countless babies.

The Ripon team is set to be staying in the hospital compound in Haiti for their week’s stay.

The present updated Haitian clinic was financed and built by Double Harvest board members, family members, friends and volunteer construction teams along with local tradesmen and laborers.  It became operational five years ago.  It resulted in one of the most modern and well equipped medical/surgical clinics in Haiti – a country where medical care is sadly too often substandard or unavailable.  

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