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Kathy Daley | Democrat

Stuart Hirsch of Cochecton, left, and Michael Lovelace of Narrowsburg are members of Archangel Airborne.

These ‘angels’ take flight: Mission of mercy via plane

By Kathy Daley
February 4, 2011 —
A hospital without running water, antibiotics or pain medication, without a surgeon to pin broken legs or suture a head wound. A quake-ravaged land where families crowd together in tents because they have no homes, where sewage runs in the streets and cholera is a killer on the loose.
This is what a team of local medical professionals and pilots has encountered in Haiti as doctors and nurses fly their first lifesaving missions into that devastated country.
“Last year’s earthquake transformed Haiti from a fragile country into a chaotic one,” explained hospital administrator and registered nurse Stuart Hirsch of Cochecton.
“It’s the poorest country in our hemisphere, and it’s only a few hundred miles from our own shoreline.”
Hirsch, with a long career in medicine at Catskill Regional Medical Center, is also a trained pilot. He and colleagues have launched Archangel Airborne, a not-for-profit organization that flies doctors, nurses and medical supplies on week-long helping missions into needy parts of the world.
Archangel is headquartered in the office of TML Aircraft at Honesdale’s Cherry Ridge Airport. Narrowsburg resident Thomas Michael Lovelace owns TML and serves as Archangel’s chief financial officer.
The flight mission organization had been in the planning stages, Lovelace said, when the earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. “The time was ripe to go ahead.”
In May and August 2010, Archangel flew two missions into impoverished Haiti. There the team “adopted” a hospital in the city of Les Cayes, carrying thousands of needed doses of antibiotics like amoxicillin, pain relievers Motrin and Tylenol, blood pressure medication and insulin for diabetic patients.
The supplies come from AmeriCare, which provides medicine to non-profit groups working in needy areas.
The team spends from six to seven days in Haiti on each mission, with the next trip scheduled for this April. While in Les Cayes, the all-volunteer group lives in simple cinderblock housing near the hospital.
Archangel Airborne clinicians work in the emergency room of Les Cayes’ only hospital, handling patients with injuries and illnesses.
Conditions at the hospital are shocking. One Haitian intern handles the entire hospital. There is no surgery unit, so desperately injured people languish until they die.
One man, the victim of an accident on the only viable means of transportation – a motorcycle – lay in a hospital bed with a compound fracture of his leg. His broken bones protruded through his skin.
“He had been laying there for several days, with no equipment available to pin the leg into place, no hope for surgery and with no pain medication,” said Hirsch. “His arm had been amputated and he was on his way to losing his leg from infection.”
Cholera is rampant throughout the nation. “The cholera epidemic since October has claimed 4,000 lives,” Hirsch noted, and “over 100,000 people are infected with cholera.”
The intestinal disease is very treatable, said another Archangel team member, Chuck Atwell, who is a certified paramedic. “You need to rehydrate the patient,” he said. But the lack of infrastructure like clean water and sewage systems means that citizens are continually drinking, cooking and washing from the same stream into which raw sewage flows.
One seldom sees old people in Haiti, said members of the team. Since the earthquake, the average life expectancy is a wretched 29 years old; before the quake, it was 60. By comparison, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years.
Those patients who do encounter the Sullivan County-Honesdale helpers are endlessly grateful. The clinicians sutured a gaping thigh wound in a man who had crashed his motorcycle. “Merci, merci, merci,” he cried, pumping the hands of the people who had helped him and speaking in his native French.
“The people of Haiti have nothing, but they have dignity,” said Lovelace, who is a former Air Force crew chief and airline maintenance technician.
Hirsch and another team member, Dr. Jean Francois Hibbert, are borrowing on their expertise on the administrative level to develop a model for helping Haiti long-term.
Hibbert directs the ER department at Catskill Regional’s Callicoon site.
Hirsch is a former nurse and administrator at Catskill Regional Medical Center, now serving as Administrative Director of Emergency Services for HealthAlliance at Kingston Hospital.
“Our goal is to establish a model that links clinical support and medical supplies with education and with Internet support for clinics in Haiti from clinics in the U.S.,” said Hirsch.
The group is also looking to recruit 300 more physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses and educators. Each individual would commit to volunteering one week each year to serve with Archangel Airborne.
While they don’t rule out assisting other areas of great need, they see their commitment to Haiti lasting consistently for years.
“If we can perform acts of compassion and caring, one person at a time,” said Hirsch, “we can create a ripple effect that transforms Haiti.”

The annual budget of Archangel Airborne, which accounts for four missions to Haiti, is $52,000. Because the organization has no administrative overhead, each dollar donated goes directly to the needs of the people of Haiti.
To contribute go to or to Archangel Airborne’s Facebook page. Or send donations to Archangel Airborne, Cherry Ridge Airport, TML Aircraft Hanger #2, Honesdale, PA. 18431.”

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