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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Dr. Sheets on his trip to Haiti

Waiting for careOn their recent trip to Haiti, Dr. Clifton Sheets and the other members of his medical mission group treated many people with respiratory problems, skin infections, stomach ailments and fevers. In that respect, their visit was typical of the many other trips that Sheets has made to Haiti.

But the group also saw widespread destruction and heard heartbreaking stories. They learned of one man who lost 12 members of his family in the Jan. 12 earthquake, and another, the mother of five small children, who lost both her husband and her home. In that respect, the visit was not typical.

Never before had Sheets seen tent cities for the homeless in the median of the road between Port-au-Prince to Carrefour. “As far as the eye could see, these tents were set up,” Sheets said. “There was no space between them, just sticks and blankets and sometimes corrugated tin.”View of tent city from a tap-tap cab

Sheets is co-owner of urgent care centers in Spotsylvania. He joined local doctors Christopher Huesgen and Claudia Sussdorf, and Chris Meek, former youth pastor at Salem Fields Community Church, for a week-long stay in the Kenscoff area. Their visit, sponsored by International Allied Missions of Tennessee, ended Feb. 5.

Sheets said yesterday that his group treated few people with earthquake injuries. “By the time we were able to get into the country, the people that had serious injuries had already been taken care of,” he said. But more than 2,000 people turned out for the group’s visit, two-to-three times the usual turnout.

Sheets also said that he believes the published casualty numbers now that he has seen the extent of the destruction. “The most depressing site I saw was a huge building that had collapsed and there were three guys standing on the roof. One guy had a shovel and one had a sledge hammer. They were trying to break through the ceiling. The country doesn’t have any resources.”

When leaving, the Fredericksburg contingent flew to the Dominican Republic, then to New York. TheyDestroyed school rented a car and drove through the night, reaching home last Friday morning.

Sheets said he was grateful for the donations from Fredericksburg-area residents. The group traveled with 35 50-pound boxes of medical supplies. “Every time we turned around somebody was saying what can I do to help," he said. "Up until the day we left people were handing me money.”

Sheets said he plans to return to Haiti in the fall. “You look at the extent of the devastation and you just say that this is not something that is going to go away anytime soon,” he said.

(All of the photos are by Dr. Sheets. In the top one, people in Kenscoff wait for his group to treat them. The middle one shows a tent city in the highway median. The bottom one is the ruins of a school. Three hundred children are believed entombed in the rubble.)