Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

June 15, 2013

Nurse practitioners keep coming back to Haiti

TRAVERSE CITY — Family nurse practitioner Mary Ellen Sanok used to wonder, as a little girl in church, why people ever would choose to go on missions to third-world countries.

In January, she will go on her 13th medical mission to Haiti since 1998. Today, Sanok is a board member of Mission of Love, a Christian organization started more than 25 years ago by Bob and Betty Johnson of Hartford, Ky.

Jolivert is a small village located in a rural mountainous area on the northwest side of Haiti about 23 miles south of Port-au-Paix. About 11,000 people live in the mission’s immediate service area, but some of its wider ranging projects serve 27,000.

“There’s something so fulfilling there,” said Sanok, who spends about two weeks on each visit. “You feel like you can make a difference because the needs are so great.”

Brooke Borgeson Gray, another family nurse practitioner made her first two-week trip to Haiti in 2010 after the Jan. 12 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and largest city. She worked in some street clinics in Port-au-Prince but mostly assisted in the hospital and intensive care unit tents with little equipment.

“It looked like MASH,” she said. “We were with bulb syringes and we strapped IVs to the side of tents. We had one big oxygen tank and no running water. A lot of people were lying on plastic cots.”

Gray returned earlier this year from her fourth medical mission to Haiti. Since her 2010 stint, she has worked on Mission of Love projects at Jolivert.

“Part of why I do it is because I get so much out of it,” Gray said.

Sanok and Gray pay their own travel expenses and use vacations to do the mission work. They also transport mostly donated basic medical such as antibiotics, antifungals and anti-parasite medications. Sanok works at West Front Primary Care, while Gray practices works at Honor Family Practice Care, owned and operated by nurse practitioners.

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