Medical volunteer fought to stem pain and chaos in Haiti

By Denise T. Ward
The Enterprise
Thursday, February 18, 2010

The earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 12 was more than a news story for Mark Hayward. He saw the images on television and immediately recognized places he had been, streets on which he had walked and people he remembered.

Hayward, an emergency medicine physician assistant at St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown, worked in Haiti as a medical officer for a team of U.S. law enforcement personnel for three months last year.

"It was very personal," he said.

Hayward, who lives in King George, Va., was familiar with the poor infrastructure in the country and could only imagine the damage the earthquake had wrought. The next day, he was in communication with as many friends as possible and was glued to the television screen.

About 3 a.m., after not being able to sleep, he decided he had to do something.

He contacted the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to offer his assistance. He explained his medical background, including time as a Special Forces medic with the U.S. Army. He told them he had worked in Haiti and was willing to deploy to help. The response was not encouraging.

"They said, 'Thanks, but we have it under control. Just send a donation,' " Hayward said. "At the same time, I'm talking to guys on ground, and I asked them what they saw in terms of need. I was told it was total chaos."

With the support of his employer, Medical Emergency Professionals, which staffs the emergency room of St. Mary's Hospital, and hospital Vice President Mark Boucot, he left for Haiti. He paid for his airfare to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. MEP backed his efforts and continued to pay his salary while co-workers covered his shifts.

Hayward loaded a large suitcase with traumatic injury supplies donated by St. Mary's Hospital. He packed another bag with supplies donated by Harder and Harder Associates, a Virginia-based company that makes specialized combat medical kits. He took another bag of personal gear and left for Santa Domingo on Jan. 16.

He had no plans for when he arrived. On a shuttle bus to a connecting flight in Philadelphia, Hayward met Will McNulty and realized they were both headed to Santa Domingo to provide disaster relief in Haiti. McNulty was part of Team Rubicon, a grass-roots team of volunteers who welcomed Hayward's assistance.

Arriving in Santa Domingo, he met the rest of the team, which included a former Marine intelligence officer, a Marine sniper, two firefighters, two physicians and a Jesuit monk. Team Rubicon -- founded by McNulty, fellow former Marine Jake Wood and Milwaukee firefighter Jeff Lang -- was formed through social networking and casual meetings. Its members quickly raised more than $200,000 and traveled to Port-au-Prince to provide medical services.

On Jan. 17, the team made the long drive into Port-au-Prince. Members set up shop at a Jesuit monastery that night and immediately started to see patients. The following day, they went into the southeast part of the city.

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