On January 28th, my husband will go to Haiti for 10 days to perform surgery on the victims of the recent earthquake in that country. It is impossible to imagine what he will encounter when he gets there. Haiti was not in good shape prior to this disaster but now he will probably see enough death, destruction, and human suffering that would rattle most people. Mark is no stranger to less than optimal conditions having worked in an inner-city trauma hospital in Detroit; several Jamaican medical missions; and as part of a team performing surgery in Honduras. This is likely to be much worse though. It will be hot. Food and sanitation might be limited. There will probably be bodies not yet recovered from the rubble. The people will be desperate. How does one keep the edge amid all of this misery?
My husband is a pretty introverted guy. He is polite but often intimidating when you first meet him. He has South Dakota manners but he is not one to schmooze or chit chat when we have company. Once he has said hello, he will quickly disappear into his lair to do medical charts, look at antique cars or trains on Ebay or watch the History Channel. However, once you get to know him, he can be quite engaging and he is actually quite a prankster. Still, much of the time he is quite contained.
However,Mark has an incredible capacity to focus especially under the most demanding circumstances. In 1991, during the Halloween blizzard in Minnesota, he performed 25 emergency surgeries on hands that had gotten caught in snow blowers. He did them one right after the other for 36 hours straight. I used to think he pushed himself to the limit so he could earn “suffering points” and I would then have to treat him extra nice but I have learned such is not the case. The harder he has to work, the more competent he becomes. He also sets high standards for himself and those around him. At times, this can be nerve- wracking for our family. As one daughter put it, “Every time he walks in the door, I feel like I have to be doing something!” However, once he casts his critical eye, he usually moves on to one of his projects and we can all relax!
Haiti has the right man for the job. I have no doubt that Mark will relish the challenge of repairing as many orthopaedic injuries as he can despite the deplorable conditions he is likely to face. It is probably to his advantage that he tends to be stoic because otherwise, he might become overwhelmed. I am somewhat concerned about his safety but I know he is wired for this type of work. Ever since he missed the first opportunity to go because he left his phone in the car for 2 days (typical), he has been pacing around looking for the inroad. Now that the plan is set, he is energized. So off you go, Mark E. Holm, M.D.! I hope they can find a bed long enough to handle your 6 foot 5 frame! Probably not…
Since many of my blogs are about the unique gifts of each Myers-Briggs personality type, I might as well reveal Mark’s type. He is an INTJ, the master of focus, hard work and ingenuity. I know he will use these strengths to bring relief to the victims of this earthquake. Our family is very proud of him!