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Haitian-American doc returns home to treat quake victims

Baldwin Harbor doctor Jean Paul Toussaint decided he had to go back home to Haiti after a phone conversation with his brother Evens.

No, his brother told him - don't dare come to Haiti. It's not safe while aftershocks continue.

Then he added: But if you do come, bring water.

For Toussaint, those last words made clear how desperate the conditions are.

"By that time, I felt in my heart that I have to be there," said Toussaint, 43. "Not only for my brother, not only for my uncle and my cousins - they're OK - but for those Haitians that I consider them like my brothers also."

So Thursday morning, Toussaint, an internal medicine resident at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, was to board a flight to the Dominican Republic, then was to catch a bus to the Port-au-Prince area.

Toussaint, who practiced gynecology in Haiti for more than 15 years before coming to New York in 2008, has already been asked to work by the medical director of one of the city's functioning hospitals. He has packed bags with food, water and medical supplies collected by a group of Long Island professionals.

But before he reports to the hospital, a public facility close to the presidential palace, Toussaint will tend to an urgent case in Carrefour Feuilles, a poor district outside downtown Port-au-Prince. There, he plans to look after a family friend named Celitane, whose legs were crushed by falling debris. Her condition is such that "if they don't amputate her legs, she will go into septic shock and she will die," Toussaint said.

Amid the tales of loss, Toussaint has heard stories of survival that have strengthened his faith.

His cousin Peguito Joseph, searching for people beneath the rubble that had been his family's house in Delmas, pulled his girlfriend's lifeless body from the pile. He managed to rescue one of her sisters, who lost her sight, and her mother, who Toussaint said is in critical condition with no access to medical care. Amid the horror, Joseph's 2-year-old daughter Kayla, cradled in her grandmother's arms, escaped with her life - and appears to have suffered no injuries.

The lack of access to medical care is dire, said Toussaint, who hopes to work with the group of professionals on Long Island to collaborate on setting up a mobile aid unit. As many as 20,000 people die each day who could be saved by surgery, according to estimates reported by The Associated Press.

His plane ticket says he's due back in New York on Tuesday, but Toussaint said he would like to stay longer.

"Each day is like a mountain to climb without knowing whether at the end of the day, you will reach the top," Toussaint said. "If you don't, you will die. This is what we call a battle to survive."

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