Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Mission to Haiti
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Mission to Haiti

Robert Downes - November 10th, 2008
Even during the best of times, life is rough in Haiti, an island east of Cuba that is considered the poorest country in the western hemisphere. But when ophthalmologist Dr. Martin Arkin, M.D., visited the poverty-stricken island last August,
he and his medical team had yet another problem to deal with: that of Hurricane Gustav.
“A lot of patients couldn’t get to us because the roads were washed out by the hurricane,” he recalls. “Some who made it drove through three feet of water to get to the hospital. It was a fairly mild experience for us, because we were staying at a hospital on top of a mountain. But many people build their homes on the side of the mountain and a lot of their houses were washed away.
“Then there were three more hurricanes after we left Haiti and over 1,000 people died,” he adds. “It was pretty horrible after we left.”
One of Northern Michigan’s top specialists in corneal surgery, Dr. Arkin of Bay Eye Associates in Traverse City has traveled all over the world for years to help people in Third World lands with their eye problems. He’s conducted eye clinics in India, Cuba, Honduras and Peru. “I try to go every couple of years. Mostly I do cataract surgery,” he says, adding that he also treats a number of non-surgical eye problems.
In Haiti, he was part of a team which included three optometrists, a nurse and a number of non-medical volunteers, including his companion, Kristin Clara, a fifth grade teacher at Mill Creek Elementary School in Traverse City. “Kristin assisted me in surgery,” he says, noting that volunteers tend to get on-the-job training due to the lack of medical and surgical care on Haiti.
Why did he pick Haiti?
“I wanted to go someplace that really needed help, and I also like going somewhere different each time,” he says. “I went on the web and found the St. Boniface Foundation, a Catholic charity based in Massachusetts that’s been going to Haiti for years. We met the team at the airport and drove up to their hospital, which was built from donations by members of the church.
“If it weren’t for St. Boniface the people in the area we visited would have no care at all,” he adds. “They’d never seen an eye doctor and they don’t have any eye lasers in the entire country. That’s something you really need to have in eye surgery.”
Dr. Arkin had to bring his own eye surgery equipment and microscope to Haiti, which involved shipping it piecemeal. “Doing eye surgery involves a whole lot of equipment and supplies. I shipped it to the foundation in Massachusetts and then they sent a little bit of it with each person visiting Haiti until we had enough for 50 surgeries.”
He saw 500 patients during his two-week stay in late August and did 16 surgeries on people who were so far gone with cataracts that they would be considered legally blind in the U.S. The remainder of his supplies stayed on in Haiti to be used by the next med-surg team.

Dr. Arkin, 50, came to Traverse City from the Detroit area in 1994 as the first specialist in corneal surgery in Northern Michigan. He earned his undergrad degree at the University of Michigan; attended Washington University in St. Louis; and studied ophthalmology at Harvard University.
He made his first overseas medical mission to Madurai, India about 15 years ago. “These are great trips,” he says. “You get a lot out of them and learn about other peoples’ cultures.”
Haiti is widely considered to be a dangerous place, owing to its poverty and social disorder. For hundreds of years it was an island of slavery and sugar cane plantations and has never overcome its dismal past.
Dr. Arkin read a U.S. State Department warning for Americans to avoid the country before departing. “But I found that the warning was an over-reaction,” he says. “We had no negative experiences and were received very warmly.”
In fact, the Haitians were eager to talk about U.S. politics, the presidential race and their relationship with our country.
“The capital city (Port Au Prince) is much less organized than where we stayed,” he says. “I wouldn’t call it anarchy, but life there is desperate. But we were in a rural area and the people have just enough to get by on. They have their garden and a donkey and little sheds built on the side of the mountains. That’s why things were so devastating in the hurricane -- the water washes the sheds off the sides of the mountain and there’s no way to get help because the roads are washed away.
“It’s kind of amazing to see this level of poverty so close to the United States,” he adds. “It’s just a two-hour flight from Florida.”
But being on a medical mission gets in one’s blood, and Dr. Arkin is eager to go again.
“It’s a really fun thing for a doctor to do,” he says. “It’s not comfortable, but it is exciting.”
In fact, Dr. Arkin was so encouraged by the trip that he plans to go back to Haiti for another clinic a year from this March. For more on Dr. Arkin and his practice, see www.bayeye.net.
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