Ottawa doctor returns from Haiti, lucky to be alive he says

Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa

An Ottawa doctor is happy to be alive after returning from a medical mission in Haiti. Dr. Émilio Bazile flew back home Saturday after a harrowing escape through the strife-torn country.  Dr. Bazile says he truly thought he was going to die as he and several other health professionals scrambled to find a way out of Haiti. Bazile was born and raised there and says it is not the country he remembers from his childhood.

The images in Dr. Émilio Bazile's mind are still as vivid as the photos he took there:  blockades manned by hundreds of angry Haitians armed with bottles and rocks targeting anyone trying to cross, even him. 

“I got hit on that side,” Dr. Bazile says, wincing as he recalls the rock hitting him, “so I try to do that.”

Dr. Bazile says he can still see the face of the woman who threw the rock at him.

‘‘Her face, the anger the hate in her face,” he says, “with that rock she was throwing at me.”

Bazile, who is a psychiatrist here in Ottawa and cardiologist, travels to his home country of Haiti twice a year with other health professionals offering free medicine and health care. But clearly this trip was unlike any other the group has ever taken.

“When I yell and scream,” he recalls, “I thought I was going to die. It was terrifying.”

For more than a week, protests have been spreading throughout Haiti over soaring inflation and unemployment.  The demonstrators are demanding the president step down. That's put Canadian tourists, missionaries and health professionals at risk.

“Disappointment,” says Cinthia Pietrantonio, a Canadian tourist who returned from Haiti yesterday, “It was not the vacation we expected and sadness because as we were leaving, the situation for Haitians.  It’s a horrible situation.  We felt for them.”

Air Canada was operating one final flight Monday before suspending the route.  A group of Canadian nurses had planned to be on that flight, hoping to take a helicopter to the airport.

Lauren Davey is a volunteer from Canada who was stuck in Hairi, “That (helicopter),” she said in a phone interview, “will take us to airport in Port au Prince that will take us to catch our Air Canada flight at 3:05.”

In Montreal yesterday, there were many emotional reunions, as 151 travelers on a special Air Transat flight returned home. Those flights will continue.

“It was very chaotic,” said one man returning home, “It was very difficult.  Really bad.”

Despite all that, Dr. Bazile says he will return to his home country:  their work in Haiti is too important to stop.

“I have to return,” he says softly, “I have to.”

In fact, Dr. Bazile says he's already got a return trip planned for July.  He says they'll be more cautious and avoid place he'd have gone in the past.  He says they save lives down there so he must return.