Volunteers return from Haiti

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public relations | February 01, 2010

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Oluyemisi Odugbesan, M.D., is greeted by her son, Dara, and daughter, Yonin, at Omaha's Eppley Airfield on Sunday night, as news cameramen look on. Dr. Odugbesan -- a UNMC instructor of anesthesiology -- returned from a week treating earthquake victims in Haiti.
UNMC's Oluyemisi Odugbesan, M.D., stepped out of the terminal at Omaha's Eppley Airfield on Sunday night and smiled as she saw Magda Peck, Sc.D., walk toward her, arms extended for a hug.

And as the two embraced, tears began to flow from Dr. Odugbesan's eyes -- as if she was releasing the stress and pain of what she called the "the hardest week" of her career.

After the hug, Dr. Odugbesan faced news cameras and reporters who waited to hear her discuss her week of treating earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

"Imagine downtown Omaha with every other building just flattened," the UNMC instructor of anesthesiology said. "Imagine walking out of your house and seeing your neighbor's house flattened and everyone in it crushed."

Fund supports volunteers

UNMC seeks to raise $100,000 for the University of Nebraska Foundation's UNMC Haitian Relief and Outreach Fund. About $20,000 has been raised so far.

The fund supports medical center volunteers and offsets their personal costs as they give their time and talent to help Haiti.

Donations can be made online or through the mail at:
Omaha Office of the University of Nebraska Foundation
2285 S. 67th St. Suite 200
Omaha, NE 68106

She described patients leaving the hospital with no arms or legs, a recovery effort that's just getting started and the warmth of the Haitian people, who overwhelmed her with their gratitude.

Dr. Odugbesan and 10 other members of the medical center's first deployment of volunteers either returned to Omaha this past weekend or were scheduled to return today.

Two volunteers remained in Haiti to help members of the medical center's second deployment transition into their relief jobs. Officials anticipate that UNMC's next deployment will occur this week.

The medical center's next deployment will include several nurses to help with wound care, which Dr. Odugbesan said is a major need as victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake recover from amputations and other injuries.

Future deployments also could include pharmacists, physical therapists and physicians assistants with orthopaedics and plastics expertise.

As for Dr. Odugbesan, she said she'd be willing to deploy again.

"There are people who need help there," she said, her cheeks still wet with tears. "They need rehabilitation. Yes, I want to go back."

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