Jackson County Times

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Haiti Quake - Dr. Brinson McGowan

~Angel of Mercy~

By Bo McMullian

Jackson County resident and orthopedic surgeon Brinson McGowan’s skills were much needed and much put to use in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, which is now attributed in the deaths of some 250,000 persons.

Dr. McGowan has been a missionary in Haiti, and a doctor, since 1979. He founded a medical center 17 miles south of Port-au-Prince and he owns a quake-damaged home nearby. He has dedicated over thirty years of his life to healing the bodies and souls of the oppressed people of Haiti. He granted an interview with the TIMES on Tuesday, at his office adjacent to Northwest Florida Community Hospital in Chipley, during his second day back at work after a month in Haiti.

“I wasn’t scheduled to return to Haiti until late February, but our CEO Patrick Schlenker called me after the quake and asked if I could come now,” McGowan said. “I fixed my scheduling and was able to be there on the 21st. I stayed for four weeks.”

His clinic, Emmanuel Medical Center, “named for Jesus--God is with us,” normally treats 50 persons daily. When he arrived, hundreds were coming through, with hundreds waiting. Dr. McGowan likely saved many lives through the prevention of infections from all the broken bones and the amputations. “We had them outside on the ground--all over the place,” he said. “Without the help from the states, we couldn’t have done it.”

Getting to Haiti, and especially the hospital in Cayes-Jacmel, wasn’t easy. He had to get a pilot from Alabama to take him to the island from Ft. Pierce in South Florida in a Cessna 210 single-engine six-seater-- “just enough room for the pilot, myself and all our supplies,” he said. Dr. Brinson’s wife of 53 years, also a missionary, wanted to go but an illness at the last minute kept her behind. The flight took four hours.

A jet out of Miami only takes just over an hour, but the road from the airport at the capital to the clinic no longer existed in some places, so McGowan had to be flown straight to Cayes-Jacmel. “The airstrip was OK,” he said, “and the Lord spared every building at the hospital. We didn’t see the real destruction until we got on the ground. It was quite a shock. Many buildings had completely collapsed and hotels had collapsed from several stories tall down to less than one story.”

Asked to name the worst thing he saw, Dr. McGowan said, “I haven’t even thought about that. It was all so bad, I couldn’t even answer that question.”

The hours of work were grueling, especially for a man of 75, but Dr. McGowan said he “can’t find the word ‘retire’ in the Bible.” In Haiti, along with the native “Dr. Philippe” whom he has trained for 26 years, Dr. McGowan “worked from 7 in the morning until 10 at night every day for the first three weeks. We only took Sunday morning off for church.”

He said he was especially touched by a father he talked to that said he had begun running out of his house with his family during the earthquake. “The father made it out, but one of his twins didn’t,” McGowan said, “but rather than blaming and being angry at God, he thanked God for his other children that did make it. That was one of the good stories. Heartbreaking, but good.”

The McGowans and company in Haiti treat not only the sick, they treat their souls as well. “We can patch them up,” he said, “but unless they’ve met the Great Physician, they won’t have eternal life.”

Brinson was born in Tampa and grew up in Tallahassee, finishing Leon High School in 1953. He said he received the Lord’s calling at 17 and took special courses at a medical school in Kirksville, Mo., to treat leprosy and other diseases in India where he wanted to be a missionary. He might have ended up working with Mother Teresa but he couldn’t get a visa from the Indian government due to politics at the time, so he went to the Central African Republic instead and stayed for five years. Then he went on to Haiti.

Brinson met Carol, a nurse, in New York state at a Christian camp, he said. They live south of Marianna on Hunter Fish Camp Road and attend Dellwood Baptist Church. Their mission group is Baptist Mid-Missions out of Cleveland, Ohio. One son, David, is a tree farmer in Alford and Marianna, and another, Lomax, is an engineer with BMW in South Carolina.

A mission letter, written by Carol while Brinson was in Haiti, reads in part: “We praise Him for the report that 20 have accepted Jesus as Savior last Sunday at Hosanna Baptist Church in Jacmel, and 45 have come to know Jesus as Savior this past week through the hospital ministry. May the Lord continue His beautiful acts of mercy, grace and healing in the weeks ahead.”

1 comment:

  1. It was great to read this. I was there with a Can group of nurses Feb 17-24 and worked with the amazing and seemingly tireless Dr. McGowan. God bless him! It was a place of desperation but inspiration.