Nearly two months after Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake trapped Jocelyn Sannon with life-threatening injuries, the Westbury woman is finally back on Long Island and is recuperating in a Uniondale nursing home.
Sannon, who emigrated from Haiti to Long Island in the early 1980s, was visiting family in her native city of Leogane, 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince, when the magnitude 7.0 temblor hit.
Falling debris broke both of her legs and left her with gashes that later became infected. With the local hospital destroyed and no way to clean her wounds, her brother pulled off his shirt and stanched the bleeding with bandages cut from the fabric.
"I was full of panic," said Sannon, 55, who since the earthquake has been shuttled from Haiti to medical facilities in Jamaica and Miami before arriving back home Tuesday. "Nobody knew what was happening. My leg was getting worse."
With her left leg swelling with infection, and no medical care available in the earthquake's chaotic aftermath, family members realized it was imperative that she be able to leave Haiti. Doctors would later tell her husband, Lionel Sannon, who was in Westbury at the time of the earthquake, that had she remained in Haiti a few days more, they might have had to amputate.
But getting off the island without a passport was virtually impossible. Sannon's U.S. passport was inside the home of her aunt, which was badly damaged and on the edge of collapse. And because houses around them were crumbling with every new aftershock - there were 32 aftershocks within nine hours of the quake - retrieving the passport was a deadly mission.
But there seemed no other choice, with Sannon's leg getting worse. Her aunt crept into the listing house, found Sannon's passport and made it back out.
A brother fitted a pickup truck with a borrowed mattress and loaded Sannon in the bed. They drove to Port-au-Prince along a road of nightmarish devastation, where bodies were frequently encountered on its rutted surface.
"I closed my eyes," Sannon said. "It was terrible."
Her fortunes turned soon after she reached U.S. officials at the airport in Port-au-Prince.
She was loaded aboard a military plane and flown to a hospital in Jamaica, where her wounds were treated. She was then flown to a hospital in Miami, where doctors performed surgery to repair her legs.
After the quake, her husband had tried unsuccessfully for three days to telephone her from Westbury. Now he will have an easier time checking her progress: She is recuperating at the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale, where he works as a nurse.