PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburghers opened their hearts and their wallets to Haiti after the earthquake one year ago.

But our region has long had a special relationship with the people there.

The Hospital Albert Schweitzer was founded by members of the Mellon family and when the quake hit, local people went to that hospital.

On a mission of mercy only weeks after the quake, local philanthropists, doctors and nurses flew millions of dollars of medical equipment and pain-numbing drugs to the agonized people of ravaged Haiti.

From the airport in Port-au-Prince, orthopedic surgeon Mark Sangimino with West Penn Health System was among the score of local medical personnel to fan across the country with their skills and drugs.

“Half the truck was marked for Albert Schweitzer, so I brought those supplies in the middle of the night,” Dr. Sangimino said.

At Hospital Albert Schweitzer, more than a thousand suffering patients descended upon the 130-bed facility and the relief from Pittsburgh came as a godsend.

Today at the hospital, Director Dr. Ian Rawson and his staff held a commemoration photographed by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Martha Rial.

In a phone interview, Rawson remembered the strength of the staff and patients to whom they attended.

“We took so many emotional cues from the people we were caring for, people with great pain who were enduring it with great strength and stoicism, and we explained to people we were sorry, ‘We can’t get any analgesics for you.’

“And this lady patted me on the arm and said, ‘Don’t feel badly.’ She was comforting me. And she was the one who really needed the medicine,” Dr. Rawson recalled.

“I think all of us just kept going because we knew that was the job that needed to be [done] and for me I was immensely proud of all the staff that was here because they never quit – they just kept right on going,” he added.

Today, Rawson and his staff struggle to keep pace with an epidemic of cholera and continue to work for long-term changes to the Haitian economy and infrastructure.

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