As it did for thousands of families in central Philippines, Typhoon Hayian descended with a fury into the world of eleven-year-old Rizza. Her life would be forever changed.
Rizza lived in Leyte with her mother, father, and seven sisters and brothers. Just the day before Haiyan hit land, Rizza’s mother gave birth to another child so Rizza went to stay with her aunt and uncle. While there the typhoon spent its fury on the islands of the Philippines causing the house where Rizza was staying to collapse, trapping her under debris for hours. She was rescued, but not before the storm badly fractured her leg and claimed the life of her father.
With the infrastructure badly damaged, there was little Rizza’s family could do to treat her leg. The local healer offered some help but thepain continued to be excruciating with any movement. Finally the village chief offered assistance. She arranged for four young men to carry Rizza on a hammock 14 miles through the wreckage to the nearest medical care. Without an x-ray machine available and no surgical facilities, there was nothing that could be done there. Onto another hospital where finally a diagnosis was made of a complex femur fracture but no one had the proper equipment to repair. Now 14 days after the storm, Rizza was out of options to find healing.
This is where MTI volunteer paramedics, Ian Yokum and Robert Petracca found Rizza. Using contacts they had developed while treating victims of the storm, Ian and Robert were able to secure private helicopter transport to Cebu, arrange an orthopedic surgeon to treat Rizza for free and then personally monitored Rizza’s condition as she was transported to safety. “I can’t believe she has been suffering for 16 days. Every time we moved her she cried in pain. Her face and the story will stay with me forever!” Yokum said later.
After exchanging information with the medical staff, Ian and Robert went to Rizza’s bedside reassuring her that she was now in good hands. “She didn’t say anything, she didn’t have to, the worried look went away and was replaced with a look of relief.”
Rizza is lucky compared to many of the cases we’re seeing. Still there are many areas that have not yet seen any relief workers or aid. Moving by military transport and helicopter, we’re working to bring care to people in the most difficult-to-reach areas – that’s the mission of MTI.
What brings us here? We are drawn by our passion to bring healing from tragedy, order from chaos, and if possible, hope where there is despair. While there are skills and experience that we bring, of most significance is the message that speaks from our presence: You don’t face this alone, you have captured our hearts and we are here to stand by your side.
Sharon Tissell is a registered nurse from Portland, Oregon, currently serving in the Philippines on a team with Medical Teams International. Supported by generous donations from Electric Mirror and the Hospitality for Hope campaign, MTI has deployed 30 medical volunteers to date and they have treated more than 3,000 typhoon victims like Rizza. MTI has also shipped Emergency Health Kits, which each contain enough medicines and medical supplies to care for 10,000 people for 3 months. To learn more about MTI’s work, please visit us at www.medicalteams.org. We’re so thankful for the generosity of Electric Mirror and all those who have helped MTI to raise the funds needed for our planned response to Typhoon Haiyan!