Colorado Springs auto dealer Bob Penkhus volunteered his company’s Beech King Air 350 to transport 16 doctors, nurses and their medical equipment to Haiti. He also enlisted himself as the pilot. “It was an amazing experience,” said Penkhus. “I delivered to Haiti the best team of doctors that life has to offer, along with $100,000 worth of donated medical equipment.”
Days after the earthquake, eight medical team members arrived at Penkhus’ hangar on the Colorado Springs airport carrying their medical equipment. “I about died looking at the overwhelming amount of stuff,” he said. Their pre-dawn departure could carry only the medical team and a quarter of the medical gear. The remainder of the team and some supplies flew to Fort Lauderdale, FL, by airline, and the remaining supplies were express-shipped there. It took Penkhus several additional round trips from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti to deliver the entire medical team and supplies.
“I felt inadequate to solve problems there,” Penkhus said. “We unloaded $100,000 of equipment, but the contact to receive them wasn’t there.” The proper contact arrived an hour and a half later, just as ramp officials in Port-au-Prince were ready to demand that Penkhus and his relief airplane leave to open ramp space.
The medical team will perform as many as 25 surgeries a day. “We anticipate no operating rooms, no pain control, doing surgery on kids without anesthesia,” Dr. Tiffany Willard said just before leaving Colorado Springs. “We’re anticipating the absolute worst.”
“Worst” is relative, though. Penkhus said, “You really have to.appreciate the level of talent.. right in the middle of this devastated community. Any day of the week [these victims] would have died from their wounds. Today they are cared for by 16 of the most talented medical professionals in the business.”