Dr. Brook in the Media
From: Riverhead Local
Thursday, April 24 2014 6:15 am
by Micah Danney
When Riverhead physician,Dr. Bellamy Carter Brook, saw the first patients arrive at the medical clinic he helped open in Haiti in February, their maladies were a window into life in the poverty-stricken nation that is slowly recovering from the massive earthquake that struck in 2010.
“We saw a variety of different illnesses, from gastrointestinal worms to topical skin infections, and the most prominent two: hypertension and reflux disease," Brook said. "Their diets are very poor down there, and everyone suffers from what we call GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease."
Brook spent a week in the country with his wife and 6-year-old daughter, bringing medical supplies and helping to stock the clinic in the coastal village of O'Rouck, about four hours from Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
The trip was inspired by a former colleague of Brook’s, Patricia Nicholas. Nicholas volunteered in her native Haiti after the earthquake, and remained there to work with the Christian charity Kindest Hearts Foundation to continue aid to the village. Within four years she acquired property and built a school for children in kindergarten through eighth grade, and planned the clinic.
Brook experienced “a calling, if you will,” and flew to Haiti with his family to help.
They helped organize and stock the clinic’s shelves and assisted children with their math homework. Brook trained the staff - a nurse practitioner, pharmacologist and a dentist who hadn’t worked in five years - in new treatments.
“I saw malnutrition, lockjaw from tetanus - you don’t see that here,” he said.
But alongside the suffering, Brook said he saw joy and “a very loving people,” many of whom shared his sense of faith. He was confused one night when he heard a man speaking loudly and rapidly in Creole - crime seemed virtually nonexistent in the village so Brook wondered what the matter could have been. He asked Nicholas about it the next day, and learned the man was Tius, a security guard for the school, and he had been praying at 4:30 a.m.
Witnessing people struggling each day to find enough sustenance to make it to the next put life back home into perspective, said Brook, who lives in Westhampton.
“You reflect on your life and how you live it. It’s easy to forget what you’re taking for granted. We live according to our culture,” he said.
The clinic is now the village’s primary employer, with a staff of 24.
Sitting in his office on East Main Street, Brook tried to describe how he felt when so many patients were requesting his personal attention.
“I can feel it but I can’t express it,” he said. He remembered the kids who would approach him in the street, smiling and stretching their hands to touch him. As they prepared to leave, Brook’s daughter, who spent the trip playing with children who spoke no English, didn’t want to leave.
The whole experience was rewarding enough that he’s already planning another trip back in February 2015.
"I was made aware that there is greater need in the world, " Brook said.
"You can’t independently fix a country or a culture, but you can start one town at a time."