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February 9th, 2010
09:34 AM ET

Returning to Haiti. Tipping the scales of faith.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Medical Chief Correspondent

When I told my wife I wanted to go back to Haiti, she had the reaction I expected. “The girls really missed you when you were gone last time,” she said. “I am worried that you lost too much weight down there,” she added. And, “what about your safety, physical and mental well being?” she concluded. They were all the reactions I expected. The car was then silent as we were driving through our neighborhood on a rainy Saturday morning. In that quiet, we both realized something essential. I knew she was right, on all counts. And, still, she knew it was the right thing to do. She was the first to speak and break the silence. “Truth is, I would go with you,” she whispered. “I would like to help as well.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Port-Au-Prince hospital.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Port-Au-Prince hospital.

I thought about that conversation a lot on the middle-of-the-night flight to Florida, a connection to Santo Domingo at 3 a.m. and then finally the early morning arrival in Port-au-Prince. She has seen the images on television of the unfathomable suffering over the last month, and she was affected by it in more ways than I realized. Over the few days I was home, we hardly talked about what I had seen in Haiti. I felt the need to protect her from those stories, some of which I may never share with anyone - and she was cognizant of the desire to not re open the emotional images. She also knew that while I was physically home, my mind never left Haiti.

Most of the time I was in Haiti, I was a doctor. With the cameras off, I saw patient after patient, most of them with head injuries and with no access to a neurosurgeon. Many of them needed reassurance, and a few needed emergent operations. As a reporter, I was able to help highlight the stark difference between most international aid, and medical aid. In short, the requirement for medical aid was immediate –measured literally in minutes and hours. If action wasn’t taken, and quickly, people would die that could’ve been saved. As a father, I held a lot of small hands and offered a soothing voice, to children whose parents had been lost.

So many times over the past month, I had my faith completely trashed as I saw unjustified loss of life and suffering. I saw amputations being performed without adequate anesthesia as nurses and doctors held down a patient while performing brutal operations. I saw the tears running down those same nurses and doctors cheeks while their faces were steeled with desperation, determination and a little anger at the awful position they were all in together.

But, I also had moments where my faith was restored. Small improvements in water distribution, a slow trickle of supplies turning into a river of good will, a rush of health care providers and private citizens with sleeves rolled up and grit on their skin. Like my wife, they all wanted to help, in any way possible.

If you look throughout the history of our own lives, there are a few occasions when we see something that galvanizes the entire world. In a world where there is too much bickering about politics, and too much fascination with pop culture, every now and then people simply come together. I returned to Haiti because I wanted to show the slow but inevitable medical recovery happening here. People should not forget what has happened and what will be necessary for a long time to come. I returned because I wanted to remind people of the relentless and extraordinary resolve of the beautiful Haitian people. I came back because the story I am telling is of the scales of faith being tipped here, just a little bit.

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soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. charls

    You are a good doctor and a good person. Your wife and family are lucky to have you. Do the best you can.

    Good Luck.

    February 10, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dr. Wider

    Dr. Gupta,

    You are a rock star!. Your actions and words moved me to tears. As a fellow doctor, I take my hat off to you and only wish there were more people with the courage and determination to do what you do.

    You are truly making a difference.

    February 10, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. gigi

    may god bless all of you for all your time and dedication!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!you are great example to everybody......

    February 10, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Michele Heggedahl

    I was in Haiti during the quake with my sister. We were working as missionaries in a childrens' home.
    Both of us have experienced survivor's guilt and some post traumatic stress.

    I also know both of us can't wait to go back, although it may take up to two years before our childrens' home is rebuilt. Like Dr. Gupta, our minds are still in Haiti everyday. Wish I could be doing more to help.

    February 10, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laure

    A thousand thanks for your kindness and compassion toward the haitian peolple of Haiti. I want you to know that I am praying for you and your family,especially for your two young daughters.
    Please take care of yourself. Stay healthy,for without your health,you will not be able to help those who are relying on you.
    May God continue to guide and protect you.

    Laure

    February 10, 2010 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Irene Sweda

    Dr. Gupta,

    I am a normal citizen of this world that needs to work every day to cover my family needs but I wished I was in the position that you and others are....this is for me the sense of what life is about and you are doing what is right to do...I am very proud of you and your family.

    Best Wishes

    February 10, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. fabiola sthubert-printemps

    DR. Gupta,
    Thank you for Compassion...
    " ONE PERSON CAN MAKE BIG A DIFFERENCE'
    and you did.
    thank you.
    God bless you and your family....

    February 10, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. kap

    SG-

    Welcome back. We look forward to seeing you here again in PaP. The medical situation is still tenuous but improving each day. If you find yourself near King's Hospital in Tabarre, have the Med Teams Int'l people link you up with the Paratroopers in the area. We have numerous IDPs in the area and can facilitate.

    kap
    WHF 05-06

    February 10, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. K C Collins

    Dr. Gupta,

    Thanks for your "compassion". You are truely a hero. May God continue to bless you and your family in many ways. Please extend to your lovely wife our sincere appreciation during this time.

    February 10, 2010 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mary K. Baron

    God Bless you and your wonderful works of human kindness. I wish there were more that I could do to help you. Your wife and girls are so blessed to have you and to be able to share you with the people of Haiti. God will take care of them for you while you are doing His work.
    We are all so very thankful to you and wish you a safe trip.

    February 10, 2010 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Christiana

    Dr. Gupta, or if you may – Sanjay – For some reason, I believe that all of us who are your fans and follow your work feels that you are able to connect to the expectors in a such personal level, that you part of our daily lives. Your ability to pass on the stories and the pain of what people are going through in Haiti is amazing and it demonstrates a lot of strenght to take on this special calling.

    I can't imagine how hard it is to be reporting such sad news and being able to report them professionally. I can't imagine the dispare that you all jornalists and you, also as a Doctor go through daily seeing horrible things and at the same time, keeping the calm, holding back the tears, taking an extreme heat in your backs....

    For me, it's really hard to seat on my confortable sofa and watch a person, such as you, with so much knowledge, doing all this work, going through the biggest dispare that probably will be seen in our life time.

    Dr., your humble heart is very much admired!
    Thank you! Obrigada!

    February 10, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Marguerite Alouidor

    Dr. Gupta,

    The Haitian community commends you for your humanitarian acts. Undoubtedly, you made a difference and will continue to do so. We are appreciative of the fact that people like you care about us. Moreover, your family is blessed to have a husband and father who possesses the attributes of a leader. May God bless you and look over your family in your absence. You are my hero!

    Sincerely,

    Marguerite Alouidor,

    February 10, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Marjory

    Thank you Dr. and Mrs. Gupta. Your sacrifice does not go unnoticed!! Thank you so very much for helping my Haitian brothers and sisters. My gratitude is infinite!!!!!!!!!

    February 10, 2010 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ngozi okonkwo

    dr gupta,
    thank you for all the work you and CNN are doing in haiti.you are a real blessing to the haitian people.you and your family are in my prayers.God bless you.

    February 10, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Brad B

    When I read this article, it really resonated with me. I have served as a volunteer overseas (2.5 yrs) and recently joined the US Army National Guard for similar reasons. My wife had an amazingly similar reaction as yours, Dr. Gupta. I did it because it was the right thing to do. I know many people look at the military as all or primarily destructive. I will not argue that here. I will just state that that's not me, that's not my unit. And I joined because I ran out of excuses not to...because it was simply the right thing to do.

    February 11, 2010 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dana

    Thank you for posting...and for returning to Haiti. The suffering, but strong people are still there, and need to be helped, for far longer than what the short attention span of the world is willing to watch. You (and your very understanding wife) are doing good. Keep up the work.

    February 11, 2010 at 05:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Muriel Glasgow

    Dr Sanjay
    what a gem you are – doctor cum journalist, you make it a divine combination.  Just thought I'd share with you some tips I developed while living and working in many countries, Haiti included, while working at the UN, providing drinking water and sanitation to the people of Leogane which almost all destroyed by quake.
    The information is purely preventive and consists of actions to take consider before the trip and during the trip. After the trip I am happy to return and plan the other one. It slso concerns being conscious of what to eat, where to eat, what to drink, where to drink

    Before the trip — make packages of almonds, walnuts, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, apricot seeds, whatever country trail mix you like –enough to last throughout the trip (which for me was usually 7-10 days).

    Carry an assortment of sizes of glad ziploc bags, as well as drinking straws; a pair of rubber slippers/thongs .
    Make sure that you have mosquito repellent and a good sunscreen 
    Eat only fruits that can be peeled -a source of great enjoyment as there are many fruits in the tropics to enjoy.
    Always splash the mosquito repellent (skin-so-soft oil)on your skin — exposed legs and arms and face — day and night  
    Drink beer if very thirsty especially if you doubt the source of the water. Or drink local, bottled water; imported bottled water is preferable and is usually available — (I would drink quite a lot of water). REMEMBER – NO CRUSHED ICE IN LIQUIDS…Use the straws to drink directly out of the bottle if you feel averse to using glasses or cups
    More tips can be found here
    http://muriella.wordpress.com/2007/04/17/20-tips-plus-1-for-international-travel/
    God Bless you and your CNN team

    February 11, 2010 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Michael

    Sanjay

    Your's is an amazing story of transformation. It reminds me of Joseph Conrad's heart of darkness but with much brighter conclusions. I am really touched by your heart and the amazing support of your wife. I wish there were more families like yours around.

    I am particularly intrigued by your coverage of the man who survived four weeks and his assertion that a "man in a white coat was bringing him water". While it may not be politically correct to declare that an angel or even Jesus Himself was bringing him water the conflict between suggesting that the man was hallucinating and the reality that he must have had water makes for possibilities that challenge our normal frame of thinking.

    I think this is a wake up call for all of us to seriously consider the possibility of realities beyond the realm of our established thinking and to explore the thought so well put by The Police that "Science is susceptible"

    February 11, 2010 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Laina

    Dear Dr Gupta,

    I will bow my headto salute your courageous efforts in saving the lives of haitian people. You are a good man with a huge compassionate heart. I wish you many many blessings for you and you family. There are no words to explain my gratitude for your heroic work in my home country.Thank you again for doing this enormous favor for my country's people. May God bless you for today,tommorow, and forever.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers,

    Laina XD

    February 11, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Monique Lecorps

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    I have always admired you, but your trip to Haiti revealed much more about you. I am a Haitian educator living in the US for the past 30 years. I would love to help, but do not see how. Your dedication to my people has moved me to the core. I know how difficult the situation must be, but you chose to help and I am forever grateful to you. When I saw you dropping everything to save that little baby, I was moved to tears. May God richly bless you and your family. If you find out any way I could be of use, just e-mail me. I am ready to sacrifice; you and Anderson Cooper have truly inspired me. Thanks again for your dedication and awesome provision to my people! Monique L.

    February 11, 2010 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Shaun Lesser

    Thank you so much Dr Sanjay for returning to Haiti. I am a registered nurse that worked In the University of Miami tent for two days. I spoke with you outside of the tent after one of my shifts. I can truly see your heart for the Haitian people and see that you really care about them and their recovery. I am thankful that you and Anderson have come back to return light on the situation. That is very selfless especially fighting the feeling of comforts and family at home. I think it is important people remember suffering is still happening. These people, especially amputees have had their world turned up-side-down in a matter of seconds. We, who have not had to go through this terrible disaster, need to be thankful and not take for granted each day. Thank you again.

    February 11, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. John Bower

    How can I get there? I've worked with handicapped children for twenty-five years, mostly teaching ESL but also physical, occupational and speech therapy. I've worked with hundreds of orphans and know I could work very well in Haiti but don't know how to get there.

    February 11, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Susan Grigsby

    I certainly understand the call to return to Haiti. I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and upon returning home found myself making plans to return two more times. At times like these the survivors and their families need someone to bear witness to what they are experiencing. That is a major reason why I appreciate CNNs ongoing reporting of conditions in Haiti.

    As a physical therapist with 36 years of experience in the field I continue to try to find a way to be able to go to Haiti to serve. Some groups require the ability to speak French/Creole and or have had experience working in Haiti. While I know that people with amputations are certainly not ready for prosthetic fitting right now, I also know that there is some very basic and essential care that I could provide RIGHT NOW. Basic mobility with crutches, patient education, wound care...so much could be done and I doubt that there are enough people to do it or know what needs to be done.

    I sincerely appreciate all of the reporting that is being done by Anderson Cooper and Dr Gupta.

    February 11, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. ellcram

    Dr Gupta, special thanks for caring for Haiti. Because of you the world is seeing HAITI on a new light. You have shown the good and the bad. A balanced picture of HAITI and the beauty of the souls of my people. I loved when you went to the Airport and get what you need to save lives. It takes a caring human being to go that far. You make a great team with Anderson Cooper.

    Thanks Again. Merci. Mesi anpil

    February 12, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Carlos Fleischfresser

    Dear Dr. Gupta

    Thank you for letting many know what was still needed for the wounded.

    Thank you for making a huge personal contribution as a human beeing and as a doctor to the ones suffering and near to die.

    But most of all thank you for your example.

    I'm sure you're a blessed man.

    Sincerely yours

    February 12, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Thomas G

    Sanjay:

    One marvels at how someone as young and educated as you would give up the pleasures of life to help out the less privileged, the homeless, and the dying. You exemplify the best that humanity has to offer.

    May God bless your beautiful family and you!

    February 15, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Rose

    Words cannot describe a thing to you , but myself and all the Haitians people will keep you and your family in our prayer. I know that you cannot do it in your own , if we do have more honest people like you and M. cooper there will be more things done. i will continue to pray god for you and other good Samaritan around you in other for God to keep you healthy , the energy that you have and the courage and for the support of your family for God to protect you always. Thanks for everything , all the Haitians people love you. God Bless

    February 19, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. H. parirs

    the reporting from anderson cooper and yourself is great.
    What bothers me now, is that I contributed to 3 different organizations for Haiti relief – now i learn that the contributions (dome/all) are being held back and were not used for the immediate relief.
    Who would know ehree the money has gone, and the uses for it.
    thanks.

    May 27, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. David Harris

    i would also like to pursue a medical career since the pay is good.*;:

    July 26, 2010 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Eye Laser Surgery

    when i went to college, i chose a medical career because it is high paying job ":~

    December 14, 2010 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.