Updated: Friday, 22 Jan 2010, 11:20 PM EST
Published : Friday, 22 Jan 2010, 5:16 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - While help was arriving in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, it was slow to arrive in Petit Goave -- a small town 40 miles away.
For nearly a week after the earthquake, the injured waited -- men, women and children with broken arms and legs, deep cuts, many needing surgery or amputations.
Then, on Sunday, a team of nine doctors and nurses -- including two doctors from West Michigan -- arrived in the back of a rickety truck.
Dr. William Cunningham, the chief medical officer at Metro Health in Grand Rapids, was one of them -- flying first to Port-au-Prince on an Amway jet.
"The families, if there was a family intact, were bringing in their children, or the people were coming in on blankets, and these injuries were a week old, and nobody had treated them," Cunningham said.
Led by Dr. Steve Edmonson, a Metro Health doctor from Saranac, they set up at an old church camp on the coast -- performed surgery in a room lit with portable lights, with no running water.
"We didn't have any anesthesia, so the amputations they'd have to do, they'd have to do that under local."
Cunningham worked beneath a blue tarp in a yard, often with 30 or 40 people watching, setting broken bones, putting on casts and splints.
"It never stopped. When we would stop at 6 o'clock, you'd look over and you'd see 50 people that we haven't treated."
There are images he won't forget -- the young boy with the back of his scalp torn from his skull. A falling brick had struck him in the head. His mother washed the wound and wrapped it in a cloth. The team stitched him up.
There was the little boy dug out after a week buried in rubble -- with only scratches and dehydrated. He woke up after four hours of treatment, then reached out for a toy.
Then, he ran off with his cousins. He'd lost the rest of his family.
"You'd have these young kids bringing these little, tiny kids and you'd say to the interpreter, 'Where's the mom and dad?' and they were all gone."
He was moved by the people, and their gratitude.
Cunningham was riding in a truck, stuck in traffic, when an old man with tattered clothes banged on the window and asked him: "Water?" The guide turned the man away.
"We moved probably about 10 feet, and the same old man came up about five minutes later, knocked on my door and had a glass of water, and he said, here's the water -- for me."
"Here he is, no home, on the street, injured and he sees that we're doctors, and he's sitting there, trying to give us water. That's what's tough to describe -- the people."