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Wes Smith in Haiti … the rest of the story

March 28th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I hadn’t heard from Wes Smith in a while. Remember Wes? I wrote about him and his Haiti rescue team deploying do the earthquake ravaged island right after the tragic event. You can review the posts here: “Haiti Relief, January 17” and “Haiti Update, January 18”

Haiti team member John Fussle commented on the follow up post , “Wes contracted a bacterial infection in his lungs and started coughing up blood. He was taken to the hospital where they drained his lungs and stabilized. Shortly thereafter, he was evacuated to the USS Compassion where he is recovering. Pray for him.”

Wes did get sick in Haiti … I had no idea how sick. Wes sent me an update letter last week; I’ll share it with you:

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm. 147:3)

Lloyd and Darlene Smoker asked me to go to Haiti with them to be an emotional support. They were in the U.S. when the earthquake struck their mission in Carrefour, Haiti, killing more than thirty of their most faithful converts.

So on February 3 we met in Ft. Lauderdale and then flew on a private plane to Haiti. The evening we arrived at the Smoker’s mission was something I will never forget. The three of us started walking down the street together.

But we just barely got started when person after person met us and threw their arms around Lloyd and Darlene, hugging their necks and kissing them. I have never witnessed such wailing, crying, and mourning in my entire life.

These were people who had lost husbands, wives, children, parents, and loved ones. In a moment of time tons of cement had compacted the life out of the people in this world they loved the most.

Some of the people died instantly; others died slowly and in great agony. One man had a piece of iron through his stomach that came out his back. Arms and legs were severed, heads crushed.

One story I will never forget is from a young man who came to the clinic with a crushed arm. The interpreter told us that when the earthquake hit, his mother instinctively fell upon him to protect him. But the weight of the demolished building on her head took her life. She died so that he would live!

The second day I was in Haiti I met a 22-year-old young man named Nelson. We hit it off instantly, especially when I found out that his father was dead. He wanted me to teach him English, so each morning at ten O’clock we met. Soon we had nineteen people in our class. We studied the Bible for two or three hours each day.

It was absolutely wonderful!

There are so many other things to tell, but I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.

The day before we were to leave Haiti and return to the United States my fever spiked to 105.7, a very dangerous level. Heidi, my daughter who is a nurse, knew instantly that I needed some serious medical attention.

She rushed me to a hospital nearby, which was over-crowded with earthquake victims. I was placed on a gurney on the floor along with many other patients.

Dr. David Marks, from San Antonio, Texas, had just put in a twelve-hour shift at the hospital and was leaving for the night to get some rest. Heidi asked him to stop by and check me. He immediately determined that I was near death’s door, secured a private room for me, and began a 13-hour non-stop medical procedure to save my life.

He gave me nine liters (about two and a half gallons) of saline solution and inserted a pick-line in my chest. The only thing that kept me alive was watching Heidi cry out to God to spare my life. Knowing that the girls lost their mother seventeen years ago, I did not want to leave them as total orphans. Jesus, and only Jesus, gave me the will to live.

I was in so much agony and pain that it would have been so easy to just give up and die. Everything in me wanted to be released from the pain of my lungs being full of my own blood. For almost the entire night I felt as though I was drowning. It was a most unpleasant experience.

By morning Dr. Marks felt that I was stable enough to be moved to a hospital ship, the S.S. Comfort, which was anchored about one mile offshore from Port-au-Prince.

Back in Indiana my daughter, Konda, was making telephone calls and sending emails to the Pentagon, the State Department, and to every contact she could think of, in a desperate effort to save my life.

Brigadier General Robert C. Nolan took the bull by the horns and ordered a helicopter to pick me up in a field nearby. So I was carried on a stretcher to a rickety old van driven by a Haitian who could not speak English.

He thought he was supposed to take me to the Port-au-Prince airport, so he headed the wrong way and we were locked in a traffic jam for more than an hour in almost unbearable heat.

The helicopter pilot called and said he could not wait any longer. He had other missions that took priority. Brooke (a woman who was in the van helping me), Dr. Marks, and Heidi pled with the pilot, but to no avail. The chopper left without me.

This pretty much sealed my fate.

But God stepped in and moved upon the pilot’s heart to fly back to the empty field and wait for us to arrive.

Finally, after more than an hour in the ninety-degree heat and smothering traffic jams, we met the helicopter.

Dr. Marks and several others carried me on a stretcher and I was placed in the helicopter. But the pilot said that Heidi could not go with me.

For the next three days I felt so alone.

But Senior Chief Mike Holmes, aboard the Comfort, kept assuring me that he would bring Heidi to the ship.

It was Saturday, February 20 when I was flown by helicopter to the floating hospital.

This may all sound glamorous, but when you are as sick as I was, there was nothing alluring about it.

The next day, Sunday, my lungs filled up with blood again. I was panting just to take a breath. Dr. Killian somehow “just happened” to come by my bed (definitely another God thing) and immediately ordered me to be taken to the ICU.

For another 12 hours a team of specialists worked on me to keep me alive. I was told later that I was within minutes of death.

It all seems like a dream . . . no, a nightmare.

After almost 150 trips abroad the Old Warrior finally went down on the battlefield. And I mean DOWN!

But for some reason God kept me alive.

By Tuesday, true to his word, Mike Holmes brought Heidi to the ship. I will never be able to express the joy that came into my heart when I saw her. I tore the oxygen mask off my face, sat up in bed, and we hugged.

As I look back it is easy to see that God spared Heidi from seeing me almost die the second time. His mercy is everlasting.

Heidi stayed with me on the ship until Thursday morning, when we were taken to shore by a small boat. Breathing the salt air was glorious. I will never forget that ride.

Beside me on the boat was a 12-year-old Haitian girl with a broken back. The five days I was on the S.S. Comfort she screamed night and day from her pain.

I don’t speak Creole, but I do know a couple songs that I’ve memorized. So I sang one of them to the little girl. She broke out into a wonderful smile.

I wondered what she was going back to in Haiti. I never saw her again.

Heidi and I were placed in a leaky old van and endured another hour and a half ride through the heat to the Port-au-Prince airport. After waiting an hour or two the huge U.S. Air Force C-17 airplane that was scheduled to airlift us to Mac Dill Air Force base in Tampa arrived.

Within four hours we landed . . . back in the United States.

The Tampa Fire and Rescue team was waiting with an ambulance and whisked us to Tampa Medical Center. Those young men were so gracious and kind to us and kept thanking us for the relief work we had been doing in Haiti.

When they heard me tell someone that I’d pay ten dollars for a bowl of chicken noodle soup, one of them went to a restaurant and bought Heidi and me our evening meal. I had barely eaten for seven days.

After waiting four hours to get a room, by midnight I was in bed for the night.

April, my other daughter who lives in New York, flew down and joined Heidi and me. They slept on the floor of my room in the hospital and waited on me hand and foot. I call them Super-Daughters, and I’ll never be able to thank them enough for giving me spiritual and emotional support.

The next five days I was given test after test after test. For someone who has barely seen a doctor in 72 years, it was a huge shock for me. One doctor told me that I was getting my one hundred thousand mile check-up! It was more like my million mile check-up.

And so was the bill! $42,571.47 for a five-night stay.

By the fifth day I was determined to leave the hospital. So I tore the eight patches off my chest, told the nurse to pull the IV out of my arm, and started getting dressed.

The hospital staff said that I must sign a waiver releasing them from all responsibility. I eagerly signed it. April picked up her rental car and we drove to Orlando where I rested for eleven days.

During that time Heidi and April flew home and returned to their jobs as nurses. But Bryan and Konda Koorey and their family replaced them and gave me more TLC.

By Saturday, March 13 we determined that I was fit enough for travel, so I flew home, where I am now resting and trying to get my strength back.

There is much, much more to tell, but this is already way too long.

Thank you for your prayers, financial gifts, love notes of encouragement, etc., etc. I feel as though I need to thank the entire body of Christ.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

If I did not know that I was loved, I sure know it now.

My determination is to pass love to everyone I meet until the day I die. For I know that it was love that kept me alive. Starting with my daughters, Dr. David Marks who saved my life the first time, and the team of doctors aboard the S.S. Comfort who saved my life the second time.

God bless you all!

In His Service,

Wesley Smith

Full Life Crusade, P.O. Box 398, Winona Lake, IN 46590

Tel: (574) 267-7546 Website: FLC7.com Email: wesed@hotmail.com

Tags: Site News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mid // Mar 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

    We’ve known Wes and his family for many years and I had to laugh when I read that he started out to teach a young man English and ended up teaching a Bible class!! That’s Wes!! We were praying for him and his daughters, esp. after we heard about his sickness. God is Good!!!

  • 2 Karen // Mar 30, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Dear Wes,
    Even in the midst of tragedy God is alive and well and working for His Kingdom. May God continue to bless you and your ministry, as well as your family and give you all peace.

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