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Ripon medical volunteers head to Haiti
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Dr. Kent Hufford of Ripon packed supplies Thursday morning with the help of his medical team for a humanitarian effort to the earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Team members are from left Sarah Tye, Gaya Forest, RN; Melissa Tye and Dr. Kent Hufford, M.D. - photo by GLENN KAHL
You could feel the electricity in the air – the divine providence, if you will – in the hallways of Dr. Kent Hufford’s medical office in Ripon Thursday morning.

Hufford, along with two medical assistants and a registered nurse from the Bethany Skilled Nursing Facility across the street, were involved in packing suitcases and boxes with medical supplies they were taking with them on their humanitarian mission Thursday night.   

It was obvious how passionate they were toward making a difference in the lives of less fortunate human beings who continue to desperately need their help.

They flew out of San Francisco International enroute to Las Vegas where they were changing planes for the cross country trip to Florida, then to the Dominican Republic with an Army helicopter taking them across to Port-au-Prince.

The team was leaving at 8 p.m. on United Air Lines before transferring to American Airlines, which should put them in the Haitian capital in the wee hours of the morning.  It is a first humanitarian effort to Haiti for medical assistant twins Sarah and Melissa Tye who were quick to say they will try to make even more of a difference with smiles and cheerfulness.  Even without a translator they know they can convey to the people that God still loves them.

Both women are phlebotomists in addition to being medical assistants in the Ripon office.

“I have peace about it and the Lord will be with us,” Sarah said.  “I’m going to help where I can,” Melissa added.  “It’s a small effort in light of the tragedy.  It’s going to be a good experience – it might even change my perspective on things,” she said.

The twins noted they had been given “Beanie Baby” stickers that a nine-year-old friend asked they take along and give to the children.

Bethany Home’s director of nurses, Gaya Forest, has participated in humanitarian missions in the past as have other members of her family.  She said she has no anxiety about the trip, certain that God is taking care of it all.

Joining up with Faith Missions
The Ripon team is joining the medical efforts of the International Faith Missions.  They may be working in a tented portable hospital facility in the downtown or possibly in a 46-bed hospital that was within two months of nearing completion at the time of the 7.0 earthquake.

Dr. Hufford explained that many of the earthquake victims were taken to hospitals in the Dominican Republic and are now being returned to Haiti.  It is mainly those people the Ripon team is expecting to further offer wound care.  They have been told they are going to be working with a medical team from England.

The team members got to work before patients arrived Thursday morning to finish packing antibiotics and other medical supplies for the trip.  Dr. Hufford had until 8 a.m. when he began seeing patients in his office.  He voiced his appreciation for other doctors for meeting the needs of his patients during the coming week.

Two medical missionaries from Salida, Chris Johns and Brandon Eller, are returning home in the next couple of days.  They have asked the Ripon team to bring them parts for an ambulance operated by the International Faith Missions to get it running again. Eller’s dad operates the NAPA parts store in Salida.

Hufford is spending about $2,600 on the trip including commercial air fare, having already sent $1,000 in aid last week.  “People are excited to help where they can,” he said.

Memorial Hospital in Modesto presented the team with a supply of scrub uniforms to use in Haiti.  The Brethren Community Fellowship Church in Modesto has also been a supporter to the mission.  Doctors Hospital of Manteca, through its corporate offices of Tenet Corporation, has already donated cash to the city-wide medical effort in Port-au-Prince.

The Ripon team had first planned to leave for Haiti Jan. 20 through another Haitian mission,  Operation Double Harvest, but their trip was canceled due to the lack of jet fuel in the Dominican Republic.  Hufford said there would not have been enough fuel there for them to take off for the states.

They have been told they may be able to make their return trip flying out of Haiti on February 20.  Dr. Hufford and his practicing partner Dr. Daryl Dutter have been involved in other medical missionary trips to Third World countries in past years.

Bethany Home director Andrew Lee and nursing facility administrator Barbara Camping have voiced their pride in seeing the team leave for troubled Port-au-Prince.  “They all have heart for the missions,” Camping said.

Anyone wishing to help with donations toward funding the mission trip may call Dr. Hufford’s office in Ripon for more information.