Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finally a moment

The last few days have been nuts. I've been running like a madman, sleeping a few hours a night, and trying to get equipment settled, packed, figuring out bills etc for the time I am gone, and a whole host of other things on top of that. It's been insane. So now, with some time to kill (I should actually be working with the cameras right now, but i need to decompress a bit) I can explain what's going on a bit. I'm sitting on a flight to JFK typing on the producers computer on wifi, and trying to comprehend all of the comfort and technology I am privy to at this moment, with what i will be a aprt of 12 hours from now. It's tough to comprehend.

So here's what happened. The day after the earthquake, i woke up feeling helpless like most of us, watchingt he news and surfing the web, wishing i could do something, anything to help. I decided I'd start a donation collection going at the school i work at part time and by the end of the day, with the help of one of the students who was already collecting on her own, and some faculty matching funds, we had collected $1000 and purcahsed a shelter box which has already been donated in Haiti. It was really quite amazing how many people stepped up to help.

Now it just so happens that I had a lunch meeting with a friend of mine, Dannielle, and actress I have known for a while and an all aorund good person. Danielle mentioned in passing that she had a friend who was flying a chartered jet down to miami to ferry people and supplies back and forth to Haiti as was needed. She said that another friend was working with a childrens hospital called St Damiens. I asked her for their numbers and she sent them as soon as she got on her computer.

I called Eric, the guy with the jet first, and he told me that he works for a charter company (he may own it, i;m not sure) and that they were going to be flying down. i then called Danielles friend Alex and asked how i could help with St Damiens. He put me in touch with their office on the ground in miami and one of their advocates in washington who was coming back from PA with a her newly adopted haitian son who she had just picked up. All of this happened in the scope of two hours.

I talked to the St. Damiens folks and they explained how dire the situation was and what was needed. St Damines is a 120 bed hospiutal and they were treating 900 people a day with people on the lawn, the roof, the hallways. They said that the surgical teams were working 24/7 and mostly amputating, much of it without proper pain meds and antibiotics because things were so bad. I think it was that that really got to me, thinking of kids who's limbs were being amputated without anasthesia so that they wouldn't die of infection. It's incomprehensible.

So I got back on the phone with Eric and asked if we could send bags. He said yes, but didn't know when they were going. We sent out an email to the parents at the school and within a few hours had a pharmacist and several doctors offer supplies. Pretty cool.

I also was able to get a solar company to donate a bunch of solar chargers and send them to Haiti via Miami. ya never know what a call can do huh?

I went home and continued to email back and forth. At some point, my friend Laurie Webb, and amazing person all around, Facebooked that her producing partner was working with Partners in Health, a health org that runs a hospital in Haiti. I emailed Laurie and mentioned the flight going to Miami if it could be of help.

Laurie and I go back to my ER days where she was the DGA trainee and i was the steadicam operator. She must have emailed her friend Cary about me because in about 5 minutes I had an email from Cary asking me to call her.

So I called thinking that she was going to ask about sending gear, but instead she told me that she was producing a documentary about Partners in Health and it's founder Dr. Paul Farmer, one of the more respected health care proffesionals in the world fighting for health for the poor, and wanted to know if I would come along to shoot it. Crazy how things work huh?

I talked to Cary for a while and asked a ton of questions, talked with my wife (who I owe big time for being cool with all this) and decided to meet with the director, Kief Davidson. Kief is a very cool guy with two docs under his belt including Kassim The Dream, one of the more stylized and interesting documentaries I've seen. We hit it off, and before you know it I was getting ready to head to Haiti, instead of back east with my family for vacation, which I am still bummed about.

As for Eric and the charter, I was able to put two huge duffle bags together filled with medication, surgical supplies and a ton of other health related items and get them to him Sunday night. Emma, one of the students from school, helped coordinate a lot for that and I can't thank her enough.

Sunday night I drove out to van Nuys, a small private airport, and pulled into a dark parking lot with bags full of drugs, to meet a guy I had only spoken to on the phone. Very Miami Vice. Eric turned out to be very cool and had me pull out onto the tarmac. I assumed that he was taking one of the gulf streams I saw parked but he told me that their plane was around the corner.

It was actually a custom 737 that rents for $12000 an hour and only had four people on it. As the woman in front of me reclines and slams the laptop into my gut, i must say I am bummed I didn't go down with eric as the pullout beds and HD tvs did look nice. Crazy. What was more of a bummer was that he was only able to conatct me sunday morning and he could have taken a ton more stuff had i had more time. Such is life I guess and the stuff we did send was very well recieved, so that's good.

Also, sitting here on the flight, the stewardess asked if they could do anything else (as if they haven't done enough - see previous post). I mentioned having access to a lot of medical supplies in LA with no way to get them to Miami where they would go on to St Damiens in Port Au Prince. Within minutes she had gone up to the cockpit, asked the pilot who radioed the ground, and now it looks like Virgin is willing to take supplies for us from LA to fort lauderdale where they can be picked up and brought to miami. Amazing.

So there you have it. We hit the ground in NYC at 11:30 and then shuttle to Newark to grab a 1:30 charter flight which we shoulkd just make. The Virgin folks already know about it, have worked out letting us off the plane first and will be heloing us get baggage out quickly so we should be ok.

ONe final note. As I sit here it occurs to me how adaptable people are. I had a drink anf forgot to tell them I didn't need the little napkin before they gave me one. I generally do that to waste less. But then it occured to me that I have been told that toilet paper is at a premium down there right now so without hesitation, pocketed it and asked the woman next to me if she needed hers. That's two! But the amazing thing is until now, it didn't occur to me how odd that idea would have been otherwise (or that it woudn't have occured at all). Strange.

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