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LI group returns from providing medical help in Haiti

The injured and sick lined up at a tent outside a crumbled hospital: adults, children and babies with festering wounds, broken bones and empty bellies.

Though more than a week had passed since Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake, this was their first encounter with medical care. They were greeted at a makeshift clinic in the town of Leogane by a group of volunteers who had traveled from Long Island, Brooklyn and Idaho.

"There was this baby, she was screaming 'Jesus, Jesus!' " said Capenter Laborde, 44, of Coram, an airport operations supervisor and former firefighter for the Port Authority who spent four days translating for patients and arranging medical evacuation for the most critical cases.

"It was heartbreaking," he said Wednesday, after his return. "Some babies were born on the street, premature. Some still had the umbilical cord attached. There were babies with head injuries, leg fractures."

The Long Island group, which included two doctors and a nurse practitioner, was led by Lucia Anglade, a West Babylon school bus driver who in 2002 founded a nonprofit to build a school in Milot, the northern Haiti town where she grew up.

The journey was made possible by an Idaho doctor who, after discovering Anglade's Life and Hope Haiti Web site, paid for the Long Islanders to fly to Fort Lauderdale, where he joined them on a corporate jet that had been volunteered to fly them to Cap Haitien.

Their first stop was at the hospital in nearby Milot, where Anglade met a 5-year-old girl with a broken leg. She had been brought from Carrefour, near Port-au-Prince.

"I asked her for her family and she said, 'I don't know,' " Anglade said. "The hospital said she didn't have any parents."

Then they headed to Leogane, about 10 miles from the epicenter of the quake, where they took over for a group of Cuban doctors who had planned to leave but were not expecting replacements.

The handoff "was a coincidence," Laborde said. "Haiti is chaos."

The memory that continues to haunt him involves a 12-year-old girl treated for a broken leg. He had noticed her lingering in the hospital courtyard and asked how he could help.

Her parents had died in the earthquake.

"I have nowhere to go," she told him. She had been hobbling through the streets, begging for help and food. Alone and unable to run from predators, she told him she had been raped.

Laborde said he took her to a nun, who arranged for a nearby orphanage to take her in.

The group exhausted its supplies of antibiotics - seven of 10 women had arrived with vaginal infections from contaminated water, Laborde said - and left Leogane on Sunday, replaced by doctors from the Dominican Republic.

But they say they must return as soon as they can.

"There's so much to be done," Anglade said.

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