This is a guest post by Justin Scott; thanks so much to him for letting MMRC reprint it here. (and to Justin’s incredible sister, Nurse Jessica Scott, for all her time spent with MMRC).
Originally published at : http://guessworktheory.blogspot.com/2011/01/two-men-called-paul.html
Cholera is a disgusting disease. Those who contract it experience an overwhelming tide of diarrhea and vomiting that without treatment dehydrates them to the point of death.
My sister Jessica the heroine recently returned from Haiti, where she has been serving as a nurse for the last six months. During her stay she got a call from a man named Paul Sebring, who asked her to come help at a Cholera clinic in St-Louis-du-Nord, a city that was badly affected by the recent Cholera outbreak. She said she would if Paul could square it with her boss. Paul did. She went.
Which is what Paul does most of the time in Haiti—he gets shit done. Paul was a fashion photographer in LA when the earthquake hit Haiti a year ago this month. Moved by the scenes he saw in the news, he called up some national aide organizations to volunteer. They told him to stay home and send money. He bought a plane ticket to Haiti. There he met another Paul with the same unstoppable desire to help. Paul Sebring’s imposing 6’4″, 250lb figure quickly garnered them the names “Big Paul” and “Little Paul” and together they drive through the Haitian landscape in a bent-up blue pickup doing whatever needs to be done. They are social justice vigilantes. Cowboy EMTs.
What needed to be done then was sterilizing the tiny Cholera clinic in St-Louis-du-Nord, where people were dying daily from the disease. While she was there, Jessica felt like she was fighting a daily battle against death and losing most of the time. Big and Little Paul brought in rags, water, and bleach, and spent the week cleaning up feces and vomit. Wiping down the walls and the floors, trying to exterminate the deadly bacteria. One day Big Paul asked one of the translators to go fill up a cooler of water while Jessica was nearby. The translator looked at the cooler with disgust and said no. “There are people dying here. We are all in this together, trying to help. Please go fill this cooler.” The translator said no. Jessica lost it.
“Are you f***ing kidding me?! Paul and I are here risking our lives to save your people and you can’t fill up a damn cooler?! I’ll do it,” she shouted, grabbed the cooler, and stormed out the door. Paul caught up to her and took the cooler. “Go back inside and help your patients. I’ll do this.”
Then there was the time Jessica needed blood for one of her patients. Despite the billions of dollars given the Red Cross for Haiti relief, there is very little blood available in the country. Much of what is available is hidden from poor patients who can’t pay for it so it can be given to wealthy ones who can. This is how Jessica first met Big Paul. She was out of options and out of time finding blood for one of her patients. His family had waited two days at the General Hospital for blood and been told there was none by The Red Cross. She had called everyone she knew.
“Have you called Big Paul?” a fellow nurse asked her.
“No.” She had heard of Big Paul. “A crazy American. Been here since ten days after. No medical training. Just gets shit done.”
She called. “Paul? Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m an RN in Carrefour. I need blood. I have a patient who will die soon without it. I heard you can help me.”
Thirty minutes later Paul texted back. “Be at the General at 7. Two units.”
And so it went for months. While the American news moved on from the Haitian earthquake to the BP oil spill to the World Cup to the Chilean miners to the November election, Big Paul and Little Paul drove around Haiti, putting out fires. Until December 12th, when “Little Paul” Waggoner was jailed for kidnapping.
A father had brought his sick infant to a hospital where Little Paul was volunteering. The baby died. The hospital workers asked the father if he could take the body. The father said he had no money for a burial, and told the hospital to cremate it. Then he set his sights on Little Paul, perhaps assuming an American aide worker would have money. He claimed Paul had kidnapped the baby, that he had used voodoo to steal its spirit and sold its organs for money. For months the father tried to find a judge who would listen to him, and finally, in early December, he did. For weeks it looked like Paul would be suffering in a Haitian jail while an investigative judge took up to three months to look into the non-existent evidence in the case. But this week an American grassroots support group helped free Paul. The judge received a signed affidavit by the American doctor who had worked at the hospital saying that the baby had died and the father had been allowed to view the body. Paul is now recovering from eighteen days spent in one of the world’s worst prisons.
Jessica hopes that this story won’t spell the end for Big and Little Paul’s work in Haiti. Little Paul has said he wants to stay in Haiti, that he has no life to return to in the US, but a statement released on his and Big Paul’s website is indecisive. If Little Paul does return to the US, it will be one more loss for a nation which suffers constant tragedy. But the Pauls have hope. Little Paul’s statement shares his strong belief that Haiti can triumph over the despair it faces, and his stronger belief that America must reach out to its neighbor and enable that triumph. With politicians holding up billions in funding in Washington and giant NGOs leaving tons of supplies rotting in Haitian ports with no workable plan for distribution, it is hard at times to see the vision he sees. But I hope we do see it. I hope more muscle-bound fashion photographers turn on their television sets and feel so overwhelmed by what they see that they buy a plane ticket and don’t look back. I hope more recent nursing grads read stories on the internet and decide that spending six months living and working in a Haitian hospital, saving lives and training Haitian nurses, is what Jesus would do. I hope I find it in myself to do as they have done.