Religion News: Surgery team on mission to heal in Haiti

January 30, 2010 

  • Items for Harley's column should be sent at least two weeks in advance of event via fax to 843-706-3070 or e-mail to

A borrowed truck headlight suspended from the ceiling above a rusted gurney was the only light source for the first makeshift surgical unit used by Carmen Marflak, nurse anesthetist, and Dr. Tony Bush, a surgeon, on their first trip to Haiti.

The two Beaufort residents had worked together at Beaufort Memorial Hospital for more than a decade and in 1978 came for a tour of the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in St. Louis de Nord, Haiti. At the time the mission was an orphanage for eight children. Many of the surgeries they performed on the tour were life-saving, all done with a few supplies they had in the 10-by-10-foot room that had been the mission's pharmacy.

"We were going to check out the place to see if it would be feasible to start a surgery clinic there," Marflak said. "We took a few instruments, some anesthetics, gowns and supplies, and ended up doing 12 cases."

The medical team repaired impacted bowels of children who were so hungry they had eaten gravel, performed Caesarean sections saving mothers and their babies, and spared the lives of patients who could have died from infected, unhealed broken bones. Even simple life-sustaining surgeries such as incarcerated hernias were performed.

"We are the only hospital up there ... that provides intensive surgical care with specialties," said Marflak, 62, who now coordinates seven surgical teams for the center year-round. "So many of our patients would be almost dead before surgery, then a week or two later they are going home."

The surgery center has since been expanded and now has two operating rooms, a 15-bed recovery room, central sterilizing and linen rooms, and a year-round birthing center. With the recent earthquake in Haiti destroying what hospitals were available in Port-au-Prince, the surgery center now is a haven where more people are seeking treatment.


In his six-seater airplane, Nick Jones of Huspah Plantation flew Bush to the St. Louis de Nord surgery center Jan. 23 to join the emergency surgical teams. Three more Beaufort County residents are among a team of six who left Thursday to provide more helping hands: Marflak, the anesthesia provider for Hampton Regional Medical Center in Hampton, and 10-year surgery center volunteer veterans, Mark and Karen Fawcett of Grays Hill Baptist Church. Karen is a nurse practitioner and Beaufort Memorial emergency room nurse.

"So many people are leaving Port-au-Prince where they are not getting taken care of," said Marflak, a member of Live Oak Christian Church in Bluffton. "They are heading to the outlying missions in the countryside. ... That's why our mission last week called in an emergency surgical team."

A packing party was held Wednesday night at The Baptist Church of Beaufort to box supplies and food that will be sent by container ship in a few months. Members of The Baptist Church of Beaufort and Tidal Creek Fellowship coordinated supplies collected by other area churches and packed 80 boxes to be shipped to the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.

When Marflak left Thursday morning, she took two 50-pound duffel bags, including a truck alternator, and the Fawcetts took five 50-pound bags of medical supplies. While Mark Fawcett said he is looking forward to the trip, he's expecting the worst.

"It is bad in Haiti on a good day," Mark said as about 100 people packed peanut butter, bandages, crutches and baby formula to be sent to the surgery center in the Baptist Church of Beaufort's fellowship hall Wednesday evening. "It is kind of hard to fathom how it is now. You see it on the news and it looks bad, but having been there, you know how much worse it really is."


The healing performed through the mission trips helps overcome the horrors seen, Mark said.

"You see some horrible things, but at least you're helping in some small way," he said. "If the surgery team is not there, these people just die."

The evening before each mission trip ends includes an exit program to teach the volunteers on how to deal with what they have experienced.

"We do a lot of praying, and encourage people to go home and talk about it in their churches and start coming back on a regular basis," Marflak said. "Rather than sitting around and moping, we encourage them to get busy andget more involved with situations, such as saying 'I can do something to get ready for next trip.'<2009>"

Details: www.northwesthaitichristianmission


"Miracles & Makeovers -- A Women's Retreat" continues from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. today at Maye River Baptist Church. The church is at 3507 Okatie Highway, Bluffton.

Details and to register: 843-757-2518,


A Cursillo Grand Ultreya will be held at 1 p.m. today in the hall at St. Andrew's Catholic Church on Pinckney Colony Road in Bluffton. All Cursillistas from Holy Family Catholic Church, St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, St. Peter's Catholic Church and St. Anthony Catholic Church are invited to gather for this reunion. The afternoon will consist of prayer, ultreya group reunions, a witness talk, commentators and a summation. Snacks will be available. No reservation required.

Details: Deacon John DeWolfe, 843-785-2895


St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church hosts a free Re-employment Support Group at 7:30 a.m. Mondays at 20 Pope Ave., Hilton Head Island. The program is open to anyone who is unemployed or underemployed and looking for ways to re-enter the workforce or transition into another field of expertise. Participants learn about resume design and job sourcing techniques, interviewing skills, the power of networking and more. Experts are available to assist in a group setting or one-on-one counseling.

Details: 843-785-4711,


A series of Bible Studies from a Catholic perspective by Dr. Thomas Richard continues from 9:15-10:15 a.m. Sundays at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Lady's Island. The first few sessions will focus on the ancient and traditional method of prayerfully listening to the Word, "Lectio Divina" (from the Latin for "sacred reading"). On Wednesdays from 6:30-7:40 p.m., Richard will offer a series on the new Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sessions will meet in the Adult Education Room of St. Peter's at 70 Lady's Island Drive, Lady's Island. All are invited.

Catholics Returning Home, a program for non-practicing Catholics, continues from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Feb. 16. Anyone who was baptized and confirmed Catholic but no longer attends or rarely attends is invited.

Details: 843-522-9555,


The Lunch Hour of Power, an interdenominational praise and worship experience, is from noon to 12:45 p.m. Wednesday in Helen Galloway's Memorial Chapel of Chisholm Galloway Home for Funerals, 808 Bladen St., Beaufort.

Details: 843-524-6634


Dr. Tony Campolo will speak on "A Christian's Guide to Faith & Politics" on Feb. 5 and 6 at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. Campolo's presentations are part of the Christian Speaker Series for the Lowcountry, which includes Church of the Palms United Methodist, St. Luke's United Methodist, Bluffton United Methodist and Lowcountry Presbyterian Church. Campolo will speak from 7-9:30 p.m. Feb. 5. There will be a Coffee Fellowship at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6, followed by another Campolo presentation from at 9-11:30 a.m. Tickets are free but required. Light refreshments will be served. The church is located at 10 Simmonsville Road, Bluffton.

Details and tickets: Church of the Palms, 843-389-1888


The Beaufort Aglow Community Lighthouse meets at 11 a.m. Feb. 6 in the Port Royal Medical Center second floor conference room, 1320 Ribaut Road in Port Royal.

Elder Peggy Malloy, the former Beaufort Aglow Lighthouse president and a retired nurse Beaufort-Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Service, will speak. She is a member of the Christian Outreach Ministries; 612 Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort. Bishop Rick and Debbie Dutton are the pastors. All are welcome.

Details: 843-525-0525


Jericho AME Church will sponsor a Debutante Masters Commission Valentine Ball beginning at 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Quality Inn, Town Center, Beaufort.

Details: Georgia M. Smalls, 843-263-6514, 843-846-8879


First African Baptist Church of Hilton Head Island will kick off its Friends and Family Day at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 with a program titled "Looking Back on Our Gullah Heritage." Emory Campbell, Gullah author and consultant, will speak. Music will be provided by the Voices of El Shaddai. The celebration will continue at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 with the Rev. Jimmy Smiley and the Trinity Missionary Baptist Church of Hinesville, Ga.

Details: 843-681-6427


Bethel Word and Word Deliverance Temple will host a three-night revival Feb. 9-11. The revival theme is "A Return To Holiness."

Speakers will be Pastor Norman Jenkins and the Full Gospel Deliverance Church of Grays Hill on Feb. 9; Pastor Ron Hunter and the Spoken Word Outreach Ministries of Lobeco on Feb. 10; and Pastor Joe Mole of Vision Ministries of Brunson on Feb. 11. Service times are 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Bethel is at 239 County Shed Road, Burton at County Shed and Pine Grove Roads.

Details: 843-521-0720

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