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  #1  
Old 01-23-2010, 12:09 PM
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Local man, Haiti, mother-in-law

STRATFORD -- Even the dangers of walking to school along impoverished, crime-ridden streets in Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- where kidnapping was a daily fear -- couldn't prepare Ezechiel Dominique, of Stratford, for the horrors he witnessed this week on a mission to rescue his 62-year-old mother-in law, who was visiting relatives in Haiti when the earthquake struck.

Dominique, 36, a software engineer at Swiss Re in Armonk, N.Y., and a registered nurse at Griffin Hospital in Derby, earlier this week flew to the Dominican Republic, where he embarked on a treacherous, 11-hour drive over rocky terrain to search for the woman who they originally thought had died in the Jan. 12 earthquake that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

"We didn't sleep at all (the night we heard about the earthquake), waiting and praying for her and other relatives," said Dominique, who moved to the United States 20 years ago. "Then we got a call from a neighbor there who said she was dead. It was the horrible news we had been fearing. All we (his wife and three young daughters) could do was cry and try to comfort each other."

But "miraculously," he said Friday, the neighbor called back hours later, saying he searched the rubble of the house and found the woman had survived, despite numerous broken bones and being trapped in the twisted debris for more than 24 hours.

"The only reason she wasn't killed was that she was on the top floor and wasn't crushed like all the other people in the house when the earth shook so violently she thought the world was ending," said Dominique. "We were so happy and grateful she was alive, but she was seriously hurt and forced to live on the streets with no medical help, no food and no water."

Dominique said on Jan. 15 he booked a flight for his mother-in-law to return to the United States last Monday. But the flight was canceled and the woman, whose identity is being withheld by the Connecticut Post because the family fears it would put family members in Haiti at risk of kidnapping, took a turn for the worse.

A decision had to be made quickly because he said while his mother-in-law could probably survive a couple of days, "in her condition, she would never make it there more than a week."

Despite being urged not to go to Haiti by his wife and parents, Dominique, after "deep reflection," booked a flight to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where he arrived late last Saturday night with only the clothes on his back and $5,000 in cash, which he said he needed for bribes. He rented a sport utility vehicle to travel over roads he described as filled with "rocks, sand, soot and dust. But people were driving more than 100 mph and cursing me for going just 60 or 70."

When he got to the Haitian border, Dominique said he showed his American passport and dished out a $100 bribe he said was expected by the border patrol. Two more hours of driving in Haiti, over roads he said were "far worse" than those in the Dominican Republic, brought him to Port-au-Prince, where he came upon one of the biggest surprises of his life.

A cousin, who Dominique believed had died in the earthquake, was alive.

"I had been trying to call his cell phone all week, and when he didn't answer I thought he was dead," Dominique said. "I was shocked when he (finally) answered and said he was fine and, in fact, was living outside Port-au-Prince and could help me find my mother-in-law."

From speaking with his mother-in-law by phone, Dominique had a general idea of where she was, but it was his cousin, who worked in the presidential palace and had extensive knowledge of Port-au-Prince, who led him to her side.

They found her lying on the ground, covered with a blanket and suffering from a fever. All around her, people were moaning.

"She was much worse than I expected, about half of her body weight gone, in terrible pain from broken bones, and so badly dehydrated her lips were parched and she couldn't stop drinking the water I gave her," Dominique said. "But she couldn't believe I had made it and that she was going to get out of that hell."

Dominqiue said while his focus was on getting his mother-in-law home, where she could receive medical care, he couldn't help seeing countless bodies in the streets and piles of rubble that had once been buildings. He said he'll never forget the overpowering stench, and seeing arms and legs sticking out from under the rubble.

"If you didn't know otherwise, you would have thought it had to have been a nuclear bomb," said Dominique, shaking his head.

Dominique and his mother-in-law stayed the night at his cousin's home and then drove the 11 hours back to the Dominican Republic, where they took the three-hour flight to New York on Monday. The family had a "joyous and tearful reunion" when he and his mother-in-law arrived home in Stratford.

After spending two days in Bridgeport Hospital, "she's recovering rapidly," Dominique said.

Dominique said the experience has motivated him to retool a nonprofit organization, Help Educate a Child Foundation, he formed a few years ago to help provide global educational opportunities for Haitian children. He said the group will now focus on raising money for relief efforts.

To make donations or for more information, contact the group at www.heacf.org.

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Stratford-man-returns-to-Haiti-to-rescue-relative-332875.php#comments

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Old 01-23-2010, 01:29 PM
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Quite a story. It shows what one determined individual can accomplish when the situation looks hopeless.
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Old 01-23-2010, 04:04 PM
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Yes, inspiring stuff. Man, that part about people wanting to drive 100 mph on bad roads is a trip. I can only imagine one is really on one's own in those parts.

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