My journey into the medical field all began shortly after the 2010 7.0 Mw Haitian earthquake that killed roughly 250,000 people, injured 300,000 more, and brought worldwide attention to the country as a whole, which was suffering from political corruption and extreme poverty. Desperate to get back to his home country to lend a helping hand, Dr. Etienne was looking for some eager individuals to accompany him. I was blessed to go with him and one of his Physician Assistants, visualizing the devastation and understanding the dire situation facing so many Haitians.
When I first went to Haiti with Dr. Etienne, MIVO was not officially founded yet. In fact, there was not even a hospital to practice in nor housing to host the staff team members. We went to his father’s house and practiced out of his garage. It was a makeshift setup with inferior instruments and supplies, but Dr. Etienne had a vision. I remembered him taking me to purchase a cement maker, which was later used to build the hospital. He also proudly took us to an empty lot for pictures. This eventually became the home quarters of the MIVO mission, and illustrated to me how much an individual with a passion can make a difference.
During my first trip, I also understood where Dr. Etienne generated his passion to serve. I noticed that most Haitians are resilient, resourceful, and respectful people. Most are poverty-stricken, and at that time, many more were living in a placed entitled “Tent City.” As the name suggests, thousands of tents, which were provided by the United Nations, were scattered across the countryside. Despite this, one characteristic was never lost: the abundance of Haitian spirit. Most Haitians were smiling and appreciative for the positives in their lives. Many adults stood in line for hours to obtain a pail of water, while the children were playing with soccer balls derived from miscellaneous linens and twine. It was evident that Haitians were happy people in need of help, providing us with a simple reward of their gratitude for our services. That is the basis of the MIVO mission, which aims to improve the quality of life of the severely underprivileged through voluntary efforts both medically and religiously; a mission that I am proud of and that I hold close to my heart.
I contribute Haiti, Dr. Etienne, and all the members of MIVO to helping me become the person that I am today. It’s faith-based practices kept me rooted after successes and confident in the future after failures. It also gave me a longing to continue to help those of lesser means. Since my first trip, a lot has changed in my world. Instead of being an undergraduate gopher of limited utility from a medical knowledge standpoint like I was in the past, I am now an anesthetist, graduating from Case Western School of Medicine in 2017. I currently practice at University of Florida Shands after a 5-year stint in Wisconsin.
From a career standpoint, I am extremely happy, but the fast pace and high turnover model of the American healthcare system often interferes with truly connecting with patients. Medical missions, however, are more self-fulfilling, serving God’s mission with an act of kindness only asking for a reciprocated smile as the form of payment. Because of this, I try to partake in as many medical missions as possible, and I am up to about ten currently.
My time, however, is now being shared with the love of my life, or mi amorcito preciosa, Maria Andrea, who I met on a medical mission. Late in 2017, I tried recruiting more anesthesia providers to join MIVO. In the process of recruiting one anesthesiologist, he flipped the script on me, informing me that he and his wife lead a medical mission to Bucaramanga, Colombia and asked me to join. I of course agreed and in February 2018 during the trip to Colombia, I met the girl of my dreams. About three months later, I went to Haiti and informed Dr. Etienne and crew about her. This also marked the first time that we did not talk daily since meeting, as there was no reception except during our off, beach day. When I finally gained reception that day, I received a daily message of endearment from Maria. This is when I knew she was the one for me.
Unfortunately, Maria was not convinced, mainly due to logistical factors relating to distance, so she ended things when I arrived to the Port-au-Prince airport during the final day of the MIVO mission. The following day, I could not focus. I went outside to enjoy some WI sun and shoot some hoops, as this has always been my stress-reliever. I however plopped myself on an outside bench because my mind was endlessly racing. Moments later, I felt a sprinkle. I initially thought it was starting to rain, but it was bird feces that splattered on my head. I cleaned up and returned outdoors, only to see a rabbit get within 3 feet of me and then flop over dead. I immediately went upstairs and made sure that my cat was safe, anticipating a third event to occur. Instead, nothing happened until the following morning when I went to breakfast with a friend to discuss the situation. At the end of our breakfast and finalization of my Eric-Maria epilogue, a woman spotted me and said hello. It was Gigi, and she immediately asked about Maria and I. Gigi was the interpreter that introduced us. It was the first and last time that I saw her outside of a medical mission setting. I therefore took this as God’s sign to persist and go after Maria.
I can happily say that I have been dating her for all 5.5 years since I met her, while she has been dating me for about 4 years, making me earn her love at the beginning. We now live together in Gainesville, FL, and I am trying to help her navigate life in the United States from a career and personal standpoint. She is my rock, and I am excited for her future and our future together. Since I love MIVO and Maria, there is a hope to bring her to Haiti to help with the mission and experience the joy of serving those in need.
Eric Klinedinst, CAA, MSA