NORFOLK, Va. Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Operation Smile supporter, legendary actor and humanitarian Harrison Ford piloted his Cessna 208 Caravan to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Saturday, February 6 to command a remarkable airlift of Operation Smile medical volunteers and supplies into Hinche, Haiti to provide much needed treatment for earthquake victims. Mr. Ford decided to volunteer his time, piloting skills and aircraft in response to an urgent request from Operation Smile, Inc. for logistical support after the organization announced that it was sending three additional medical teams and over 2 1/2 tons of medical supplies across three locations in Haiti.
After battling three days of adverse weather conditions between Los Angeles and Miami during last week's winter storm, Mr. Ford made several trips over a two-day period to a remote dirt landing strip in Haiti and delivered a team of 20 volunteers that included plastic surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologists, and eight nurses along with critical medical supplies. Given the logistical challenges and difficult travel routes from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, Mr. Ford's efforts significantly sped the process of getting the medical team and supplies to Hinche so care could be given most expeditiously to children and adults who have been waiting for weeks to receive treatment.
Mr. Ford wanted to provide support after seeing the devastating impact of the earthquake, and noted, "This is not about me, it is just about doing what I can to help Operation Smile and the people of Haiti."
After he safely delivered the balance of volunteers and supplies, Mr. Ford was able to visit with both pediatric and adult victims of the earthquake at the hospital in Hinche, all with devastating injuries requiring urgent surgical treatment. Most had been buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings, subsequently rescued and brought by family members to this remote area because of no alternative locations for care. Upon arrival, the Operation Smile medical team rapidly triaged patients
according to the severity of their injuries and additional patients were directed to physical therapy volunteers to begin the process of rehabilitation.
Operation Smile team leader and plastic surgeon, Dr. Craig Merrell, noted, "We are truly thankful that we were able to get here as expeditiously as possible, in order to begin treatment of patients who are suffering from infections, open wounds, and untreated fractures from the recent earthquake."
Operation Smile is working directly with Partners In Health in Hinche to provide critical surgical care for the overwhelming number of patients. A second team was sent to Fond Parisien to relieve an initial group of Operation Smile volunteers who arrived on January 22, and helped establish a comprehensive medical and surgical compound that expanded the capacity and level of care for hundreds of patients. A third team is currently working with the United States military aboard the USNS Comfort. Since Operation Smile has been in Haiti, its medical volunteer teams have conducted hundreds of medical and surgical procedures.
Operation Smile is known for its 28-year history of providing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries in developing countries and is not traditionally a disaster relief organization. However, the organization made a commitment to utilize its unique resources and quickly mobilize medical volunteers from around the world to provide assistance in Haiti. With over 4,000 Operation Smile credentialed medical volunteers and a presence in over 50 countries, the organization has immediate access to trained surgical and medical professionals who have experience working in difficult environments. In addition, the Operation Smile logistics team is skilled in deploying and organizing highly functional field hospitals in developing countries across the globe.
For updates on Operation Smile's efforts in Haiti, visit the daily blog on www.operationsmile.org/haiti, follow @operationsmile on Twitter, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/operationsmile. To make a $5 donation to Operation Smile in support of Haiti relief, you can text SMILE to 90999.
Photos are available upon request.
About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)
Founded in 1982 by Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee, Operation Smile, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is a worldwide children's medical charity whose network of global volunteers are dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children and young adults. Since its founding, Operation Smile has treated more than 140,000 children born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities and the organization has a presence in more than 50 countries. In addition to contributing free medical treatment, Operation Smile trains local medical professionals in its partner countries and leaves behind crucial equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency.
SOURCE Operation Smile