ANGELS OF MILOT
A helicopter flies in low over a tropical town. As it sets down on the emerald surface of a soccer field, crouched figures rush in to unload a precious human cargo: the severely injured victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
The location is Milot, 75 miles north of Port-au-Prince, safely outside the quake zone. In the disaster’s aftermath, Milot becomes a center for medical relief efforts, as volunteer doctors and nurses arrive. Their base of operations: Hôpital Sacré Coeur, which has been supported for more than two decades by an American aid group.
After the quake, the hospital expands overnight, growing from two operating rooms to six. Tents spring up to house hundreds of new patients, giving the place the look of a military field hospital. And the injuries are often as severe as on any battlefield. Many of the patients, crushed under falling buildings, must undergo amputation – adding to their physical and emotional trauma.
Our camera is there to capture the horrors and the hope of those first days and weeks, as a team of orthopedic specialists struggles to save lives.
Unique access to the hospital and the volunteers is allowing us to capture dramatic and moving footage every day, and to follow stories over time. This film will be very different from the news coverage of the quake, providing a more intimate look at the daily tragedies and triumphs at Sacré Coeur, from the perspective of those at the center of the action.
Great characters have already emerged: doctors and nurses, fighting fatigue and stress under difficult conditions… and patients who have endured terrible suffering, but are willing to share their experiences. Here are just a few of the compelling stories:
Dr. John Lovejoy, Jr., a retired orthopedic surgeon from Jacksonville, Florida, who has volunteered at Sacré Coeur for years. He’s the leader of the surgical team, with an infectious optimism, and ambitious ideas for his patients’ recovery. And his son John III, also an orthopedic surgeon, has joined him on this mission.
Joseph Edelyn, a young double amputee. The staff calls him “Light” because his perpetual smile brightens the entire tent. But with no legs, and no home to return to, what does his future hold?
Chadey Michell who arrived by helicopter from Port au Prince by herself, Neika Fortin-Love who was separated from her mother for 18 days and Dove Valsin, the quietest of the three who was pulled from the rubble four days after the quake by her 15 year old sister. The three muskateers –all seven years old, all of whom had to have one leg amputated are fitted with prosthetic legs at the lab and help each other heal with encouragement and laughter.
Tim Traynor is a retired electrical engineer whose background in construction led him to volunteer his services to the Crudem Foundation to complete a building study and implement a reconstruction plan for the hospital. Luckily, Tim was on a volunteer trip at the hospital when the earthquake struck and was able to address key infrastructure issues resulting in the influx of patients and become the Initiatives included securing a water supply, addressing waste issues, adding electricity to the schools across the road to be used as the new triage and operating rooms - all in a matter of crucial hours and days when receiving the wounded.
Dr. Rick Pitera, the only anesthesiologist on the ground in the first week who was running six Operating Rooms simultaneously for 15 hour days.
Richnulda Pierre, a baby who was believed killed along with many members of his family. When his mother finds him still breathing, he is flown to Milot, and from there to the US Navy medical ship Comfort. He returns to Sacré Coeur in a few days with a bad haircut and a rosy prognosis from neurosurgeons.
Kim O’Brien is a Physician’s Assistant from Children’s National Medical Center having had a previous career in the Reagan Administration.
Denise Hoffman, a pediatric nurse from Missouri who lost one of her legs to cancer when she was 19. She develops a special bond with the amputees, inspiring them by her example… and showing them what a prosthetic limb can do.
Dr. John F Lovejoy, III, a pediatric orthopedist from Children’s National Medical Center.
The residents of Milot are part of our story, too. They are poor, but as their local hospital begins to fill with quake victims, they gladly pitch in, cooking for patients and staff, providing clothes and supplies, even singing to them.
In Jacksonville, Florida a 40-foot shipping container is outfitted as a mobile prosthetic unit, a project spearheaded by John Lovejoy. This portable clinic is shipped to the hospital in Milot, to provide the post-operative care, physical therapy, and artificial limbs that are almost impossible to obtain in Haiti. We will be following and filming the progress of the mobile unit, from the docks in Jacksonville to the grounds of the Sacré Coeur.
Over the coming months, we’ll follow the ongoing stories of the doctors and patients we met in the first days after the quake. Some are still in the hospital. Others will return there to be fitted with new artificial limbs.
As they travel the difficult road to recovery, their stories will serve as a microcosm for the story of Haiti, in the aftermath of its tragedy. We’ll see how the dedication of the volunteers of Milot is giving amputees a leg up… helping them to rebuild shattered lives, and mend a broken country.
The film’s creative team includes executive producer Ellen Lovejoy, writer Jaime Bernanke and director/cinematographer Bernardo Santana.
Ellen has served since 2002 as SVP of Sales and Programming for Target Entertainment Group. She has dealt extensively with both buyers and commissioners at US network and cable broadcasters, most recently forging deals with HBO, National Geographic, Investigation Discovery and Masterpiece Theater on PBS.
Bernardo is a native of Puerto Rico, who began his career in Panama. He has extensive experience in news, documentaries, and features, including filming with coalition forces in the Iraq War.