L&M nurse pitches in at Port-au-Prince hospital

Jean Laurent Nelson of Montreal, Canada, cries while praying Sunday with parishioners at the First Haitian Baptist Church in Norwich.

After a daylong journey by plane, bus and car, nurse Jessica Patti of New London began caring for earthquake victims by mid-morning Sunday at a community hospital in Port-au-Prince, according to family, friends, co-workers and other supporters who learned the news Sunday evening.

About 40 people gathered at a fundraiser for Raising Haiti, a group started by Patti and her fellow Lawrence & Memorial Hospital emergency department nurse Cheryl Maulden, and heard the update on Patti's journey to the earthquake-ravaged country.

"She is asking anyone with orthopedic surgery or operating room experience to come down," Maulden told the group at the fundraiser at Chaplin's restaurant.

Patti also said there is a great need for pain medications and wound care supplies.

"All they have is Tylenol to give people with these crushing injuries," Maulden said.

Patti has been able to borrow a cell phone for brief phone calls to her mother, Nanette Patti of Groton, as well as Maulden and another close friend. The hospital she is working at has armed guards, her mother said, and she and other medical volunteers are sleeping there on air mattresses. Volunteering alongside Patti is retired L&M nurse Mary Vendetto of New London.

"She sounds very focused, just like she does when she's working in the ER," said Maulden of New London, who is preparing to join Patti.

She is scheduled to leave for Haiti on a free flight being provided by JetBlue and organized through a group of Harvard Kennedy School of Government alumni that calls itself Denise, the same group that arranged for Patti's trip. Leaving with Maulden early Tuesday morning will be Diane Hillyer of Salem, a phlebotomist at L&M. A physicians' assistant from L&M may join them.

"I'm excited," Hillyer said. "I can't wait to just get down there and dive in. I'm not scared at all."

Maulden said all the money from Sunday's event will be used to buy pain medications, splinting and wound care materials and other supplies that she will bring with her.

The event raised more than $1,000 from ticket sales, plus money from a raffle of donated items and a $1,700 gift from members of Flanders Baptist Church and other local residents collected by Robin Soule, a teacher at Niantic Center School.



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