The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 15, 2013

Sunday Forum: Labor of Love Project a long-term commitment

Since her first trip to Haiti in 2010, Dr. Cheryl Fogarty has visited the country 12 times. On Saturday,  the third anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, Fogarty and two other Joplin doctors, Brad Coy and David Baker, flew back to Haiti to perform surgeries at the outpatient and maternity clinics at Haitian Christian Mission in Fond-Parisien, a small village approximately 23 miles from the country’s capital city, Port-Au-Prince.

Additionally, the group of surgeons will be joined by team leaders who will begin the initial construction phase of a 40-bed hospital and neonatal intensive care unit that Fogarty has helped plan and finance.

“My brain and heart always get geared up before a trip,” Fogarty said when asked about the lessons she has learned during her three-year experience providing skilled maternal health care for women residing near the village. “What I have learned is that God always puts the right team in place to do his work. God already knows the people that we will see. He knows who we will be able to help medically and those who we can help spiritually.”

‘What am I supposed to do?’

In July of 2010, Fogarty and seven others from Joplin boarded a plane bound for Haiti. Once on the plane, Cheryl felt a wave of peace envelop her. She told herself, “This is what you’re supposed to do.”

Then she got off the plane in Haiti. Fogarty, who has suffered from chronic asthma since childhood and depended on inhalers and several medications to breathe freely, was unprepared for the stench of decay she inhaled when she stepped off the plane and into the suffocating heat and humidity of Port-Au-Prince.

Six months before her first trip to Haiti, Fogarty began a quest to understand her life’s mission.

“I had achieved all my goals,” she said. “My husband and I have been together for 20 years. We have four children, a beautiful home, and my practice is thriving. Yet I felt there was something more I was supposed to do. So, I prayed and asked God, ‘What is it? What am I supposed to do?’ And then the earthquake hit. And then I knew.”

I smiled and nodded as Fogarty told her story, cringing inside just a little bit when she mentioned the words, God and pray. I had invited Fogarty to coffee at our local Panera Bread Co. so she could tell me a bit about her medical mission trips to Haiti. I could then use her story to help inspire readers to use their talents to help others, too. I had no intention of speaking about God.

I don’t write much about spirituality and God. It’s far too easy to credit God’s “goodness” when circumstances in our lives go the way we want them to.

In spite of this skeptical attitude, about 30 minutes into our conversation I realized that what Fogarty was involved in was bigger than me, her or even the small mission group she initially traveled with to Haiti. As I listened intently to the incidents that led Fogarty to decide to help fund a maternity clinic, an outpatient clinic, an orphanage and the upcoming construction of a 40-bed hospital and neonatal intensive care unit, I recognized the thread of something powerful weaving through our lives, carefully connecting us to each other.

The idea to go to Haiti didn’t come to Fogarty via a call for physicians through an organized medical effort, as I had originally presumed.

“About 10 days after the earthquake, I woke up at 3 a.m.,” she said. “I looked over at my husband and said, ‘I have to go to Haiti.’”

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