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Toledo Blade, 12-23-2013

Toledoans aid stricken Philippine city

Medical workers travel to Tacloban, heart of disaster

By Marlene Harris-Taylor


Above, Dr. Kris Brickman of the University of Toledo Medical Center staff shows one of several cell-phone memories of his recent trip to the Philippines, where he helped with disaster relief after a typhoon wiped out much of the town he visited as part of a relief effort.

Dr. Kris Brickman is an adventure-seeker.

The chairman of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, admits he is an adrenaline junkie, so when he was asked to help with relief efforts in the Philippines after a devastating typhoon, he did not hesitate.

He and nine other medical professionals from Toledo returned recently from a mission to assist victims of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most ferocious ever. It slammed the island nation in early November with 200-mile-per-hour winds, leaving more than 6,000 people dead and nearly 1,800 missing.

“It just hit the heart of the Philippines,” Dr. Brickman said.

As founder and director of the global health program at the former Medical College of Ohio, Dr. Brickman had developed relationships with health officials in the Philippines. He had traveled to the country's capital, Manila, many times on training missions with medical students. This trip was much different.

Dr. Richard Paat, clinical professor of medicine at UTMC, was organizing a medical mission to Tacloban, the hardest-hit city.

Dr. Paat, who is also chairman of medical missions for the Special Commission on Relief Education of the Filipino Association of Toledo, or SCORE, is no stranger to this kind of work. Over the past 19 years, he has organized 54 medical missions to developing countries. Six of them were disaster aid missions.

He took medical professionals to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and to Haiti after an earthquake destroyed much of the country in 2010, but this trip was more personal for him.

“It's the home country of my parents, and we got a request right away to bring in a medical team,” he said.

“Rich called me over the weekend before the trip and said, 'I'm taking a team on Thursday and I have 10 slots; are you interested in going?’ ” said Dr. Brickman. The Toledo team stopped in Manila to connect with 20 health professionals from the University of Santos Tomas for the last leg of the 30-hour journey to Tacloban. At left, Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation in the area Dr. Brickman visited as part of a relief effort.

It was a month after the storm hit, but when they stepped off the plane, “it was quite apparent we were in a different place,” Dr. Brickman said. The former international airport was in shambles. There were very few planes coming in — mostly helicopters delivering relief supplies. 


“What impressed me was just the amount of trash that was just everywhere. The rubble of what used to be their lives was just piled up out there on the streets, on the curbs in big piles that they tried to deal with the best they could, and the best thing they could think of was to just burn it,” said Dr. Brickman.

“It hits homes. Everybody lost everything,” said Dr. Paat.

The group stopped by the abandoned hotel in the center of town that would be their home for the next few days and dropped off their bags. Then it was off to the makeshift clinic to begin seeing patients.

“We hadn't slept in two days when we had to work all day running this clinic, so needless to say we were a bit tired and haggard after day one. And it’s 100 degrees out. I mean we were just sweating like a beast. I mean it was just ugly,” said Dr. Brickman.

The medical students from Manila served as his interpreters and Dr. Brickman estimates he saw 55 to 60 people on the first day with a variety of ailments, from minor injuries to chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

He said many of the people he treated were suffering from respiratory problems.

Above, Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread devastation in the area Dr. Brickman visited as part of a relief effort.

“All the smoke and stench and everything in the air — the stuff they were breathing. So these people are inhaling all this smoke and fumes day in and day out and eventually that's gonna cause some irritation to your lungs," he said.

The Toledo group returned home Dec. 10 after two days on the ground traveling from clinic to clinic.

“They will rebuild. The Filipino people are strong. If we were able to help them for a little bit, that was our job,” said Dr. Paat. He estimates the rebuilding process will take at least three years.

Dr. Brickman said he worries about those patients he treated and wonders if they will have another opportunity to see a doctor.

He would like to establish an ongoing relationship with the people in Tacloban so that when the story of the typhoon fades from the headlines, they will not be forgotten.

Dr. Paat said he plans another trip for spring. This trip and others are funded by the SCORE organization.

Donations to the relief effort can be directed to the Web site Scorefat.org.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.


Toledo Blade, 11-19-2013

High-tailin' husky from Texas offers love, a mystery to solve

by Janet Romaker


Vicki Schramm gets a kiss from Blue, a Husky she is caring for in her Toledo home after it wound up in Toledo from Texas. Blue ran away in 2007 and her owner would like the Schramms to keep the dog.

She’s a runaway. A run, run, run, run, runaway.

On the lam from Texas since 2007, found in Toledo a few days ago, the boot-scootin’ babe is in “custody” of two retired Toledo police officers. And for reasons obvious, no charges — escape, crossing state lines, petty theft (this runaway can steal your heart with a tail wag) — will be filed.

The case remains open. An unsolved mystery.

Just how did this dog from Laredo, Texas, end up wandering the streets of downtown Toledo — six years and roughly 1,135 miles after it went missing?

She’s a runner, no question. On Monday afternoon, Blue plowed under a backyard fence in South Toledo, where she is now living, and off she trotted. She was cornered at a nearby market, where customers blocked her exit with grocery carts as Jay Schramm, a retired Toledo police officer, caught up to the pooch.

With a curled, feather-duster tail and those please-love-me eyes, Blue didn’t get much of a scolding, but a promise to reinforce the fence. And the repair has been made, Mr. Schramm’s wife, Vicki Schramm, said Tuesday.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the friendly dog was seen hanging around outside the Main Library in downtown Toledo. A concerned citizen asked people: Anyone missing a dog? Is this your dog? Unable to find an owner, the citizen took the dog to the nearby police station where, because of her history as a dog rescuer, Mrs. Schramm was called. She agreed to take in the dog and to try to find its owner.

Turned out, the dog had a microchip, listing the owner in Texas.

A veterinarian called the owner, Brenda Castro Hernandez, and put her in touch with Mrs. Schramm. Both women, when they first talked to each other, shed a few tears as the story unfolded about a 6-month-old Husky who one day ran away from home and never came back.

Since 2007, Mrs. Hernandez has wondered: Is Blue dead or alive? Was Blue forced into dog-fighting rings? Had someone picked up Blue and made a run for the border?

“I’m just glad to know Blue is alive,” said Mrs. Hernandez, who has become Blue’s friend through Facebook, checking out photos, such as a couple days ago after grooming enhanced this girl dog’s good looks. A veterinarian’s report shows the dog is in good health.

“She’s been cared for and loved,” Mr. Schramm said.

“If Blue could only talk,” Mrs. Schramm mused as her husband tussled with Blue on a nearby couch.

How the dog got to downtown Toledo is a key question. It’s a significant distance from there to here — through Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and into northwest Ohio — even for a dedicated dasher. The retired police officers highly doubt the Husky trotted to Toledo.

It’s a case they would like to solve.

Meantime, the Schramms learned Tuesday Mrs. Hernandez would like the Toledo couple to keep the dog, if that would be okay with them. When contacted by The Blade with the news, Mrs. Schramm hesitated not even slightly. “Yes, yes, definitely,” she said.

And, this indeed would be perfectly legal, said Julie Lyle, Lucas County dog warden. And then the ifs and buts. ... Blue has been living somewhere with someone since 2007.

The dog hasn’t been on its own that long, Ms. Lyle said. If the caretaker bought a license for Blue, the license takes priority over the microchip.

And it is highly possible the dog could have been living at a home in a neighboring county. Some dogs that run off, such as a Labrador, will go a mile or so and stop. Huskies? They easily will go 30 miles, she said.

Blue's legal owner could be out of town or in a hospital, Ms. Lyle said, noting people who find stray dogs should take steps to give the owners a good chance to get their pets back.

Mrs. Schramm said she did just that, such as putting out calls and using Facebook, and there were no responses.

Vicki Schramm would like to solve the mystery of how the husky Blue got from Texas to Toledo. 'If Blue could only talk,' she said.

Mrs. Hernandez would like to take Blue back, but cannot afford delivery costs. Besides, she said, her life has changed over the years: marriage, children, etc. And because Blue needs close supervision, Mrs. Hernandez wants the Schramms to keep the dog.

Blue had a habit of darting and dashing, Mrs. Hernandez recalled. Neighbors would call and say, “Your dog’s at my house,” or “I saw your dog in my neighborhood.”

She thanks the kind people who have taken care of Blue. “I am happy with all the owners, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth,” she said, figuring Blue has been on the run, from place to place, for years. “She’s a Husky. They pull sleds. Running is what they do. It’s in their blood.”

Someday perhaps, a reunion, providing the dog stays with the Schramms. Mrs. Hernandez has relatives in Columbus and when she comes to Ohio, she would like to visit with Blue at the Schramms’ home. “That would be awesome,” Mrs. Schramm said.

Mrs. Hernandez wants, one more time, to wrap her arms around the neck of this free-spirit Husky. Purchased at 6 weeks old, and the runt of the litter, she named it Blue.

Lucky the Husky would have been a good choice as well.

If you are Blue's licensed owner or know who the dog may belong to, call the Lucas County Dog Warden's office at 419-213-2800.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.