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Chappaqua Doc Brings Meds and More to Haiti

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. - Members of the Mount Kisco Medical Group have been working with teams of medical professionals and volunteers to create something truly sustainable in Haiti, according to Dr. Jill Ratner.

“All it took was one person to pretty much initiate the idea, and then it just mushroomed,” the pediatrician. She explained how she talked with people about traveling to Haiti to bring medical assistance. In the past 18 months, she has been there three times, each trip with different teams of doctors, nurses and students.

In May, her colleague Dr. Dan Leonard, a cardiologist with the Mount Kisco Medical Group, traveled with a team that included ophthalmologists, an EKG tech and nurses.

“The poverty is frightening poverty," he said. "It is dehumanizing poverty, really quite emotionally traumatic…. On the one hand, there is a sense of near despair when you see how terrible it is; on the other hand, there are pockets of progress. It is remarkable to see the numbers of do-gooders.”

A Goldens Bridge resident, Ratner has now created an organization called Hands

Up for Haiti, which works to bring sustainable change on the medical level to Haiti.

“We have built credibility with doctors and nurses there," said Ratner. "We’ve identified a place where health care is dreadfully in need, our southern neighbors that we can get to pretty easily.”

The teams that travel to Haiti several times a year are bringing materials, medications and medical supplies and are also treating patients, many of whom come from miles away and wait on line for the chance to see a doctor.

There is also an educational component, so that when the team leaves, the medical care can continue. Both Ratner and Leonard praised the medical personnel in Haiti and added that what they need most are equipment and resources. Leonard, who lives in Chappaqua, says that he brought a portable EKG machine.

“It was like turning on the lights. It is so magical to them and so pitiful to me--what I think of as routine is unavailable to them.”

Both doctors have shared their stories with other professionals, and others are rallying to the cause. Ratner sums it up, saying: “I think everybody that has worked there has been touched by the Haitians and their resiliency. There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about these people that touched your lives and you touched their lives…. You can’t stop thinking about Haiti. ‘When can I get back’ is the line people have when they come home.”

To help keep medical professionals traveling to Haiti, donations can be sent to Hands up for Haiti, P.O. Box 913 Mount Kisco, New York, 10549.

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