After a week of helping Haitian earthquake victims in the Dominican Republic, Dick and Judy Stoops of Versailles are physically and emotionally drained.
"Any time I think about it, sometimes I really don't know what to say," Judy Stoops said in a telephone interview Monday from Palm Beach, Fla. She and her husband returned to Versailles on Tuesday.
"To see the injuries and how stoic the people are and how accepting they are, and to know that their lives and hundreds of thousands are affected for such a long period of time — I don't think we could have done anything any better, and we did the best we could, but it's never enough," Judy Stoops said.
Last week, the Stoopses worked at an as-yet-unoccupied orphanage that had been turned into a makeshift clinic in the Dominican Republic near the Haitian border (Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola). Judy, a retired registered nurse, tended to the injured and directed volunteer nurses. Dick, who once ran a skydiving center near Lexington, transported patients and assisted in aircraft maintenance.
The Stoopses are volunteers with Remote Area Medical, a non-profit volunteer organization based in Knoxville that offers free health care in underdeveloped countries and the United States. The Stoopses have been involved with RAM since 2004; they have helped cut a trail in a rainforest in Guyana and worked at a clinic in Tanzania.
Before leaving the United States on this trip, Dick Stoops loaded 51 cases of meals-ready-to-eat in Indianapolis and drove them to Knoxville, where they were loaded onto a DC-3, a World War II-era aircraft. The Stoopses flew to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Jan. 16, then worked in the clinic in Jimani from Jan. 17 through Saturday. The clinic performed 252 amputations in five or six days, the Stoopses said.
"It's just really terrible," Dick Stoops said. "Little kids have to have their arms or leg amputated. ... You have kids there that don't even know where their parents are, and the parents don't know where the kids are. ... What we were doing in Jimani was just a very small drop in the overall bucket, because there are similar situations going on all over the country."
Dick Stoops, 71, made a brief trip into Port-au-Prince with RAM founder Stan Brock. The rubble reminded Dick of bombed ruins in Germany after World War II, which he had seen as a 7-year-old.
"Just about every building had some kind of destruction to it," he said.
Judy Stoops, 66, who works part-time at Baptist Physicians Surgery Center in Lexington, recounted the images of suffering that stick with her. She remembered one little girl with a badly mangled hand.
"One minute she's screaming as we're changing her dressing, and 30 minutes later she's smiling at me as if nothing had happened," Judy Stoops said. Then "there was a 100-year-old woman lying there with a broken leg, and she's blind, and her family is not there, she's by herself. If they fix her leg, I'm sure she's going to die of an infection before they can get it fixed properly.
"One lady had passed away ... and she was covered with a sheet for 12 or 14 hours before they could get a coffin. And she had one relative with her, who was a nephew, and he is now homeless and has no relatives. Where are they going to go? What are they going to do? I don't think I have any adjectives to describe this.
"But when you're there and working, you're in a different mind-set and you're just on automatic for 12 or 14 hours, and then you sleep and you start it again the next day. It's only after I've come back ... does it really start to sink in."