Elmira nurse Yvonne Martin died in Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Martin was part of a team of seven nurses from the Kitchener-Waterloo area who arrived in Haiti shortly before the quake. The church-sponsored mission team arrived in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and had just settled into a guest house when the quake struck and the building collapsed.
The Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, which organized the mission to Haiti, reported that the other six members of the group are safe.
Martin was the first confirmed Canadian casualty of the magnitude seven earthquake.
Martin worked at the Elmira Medical Centre for 36 years before retiring two years ago.
Dr. Michael Norris, who knew her since he started at the Elmira clinic 25 years ago, said she retired from the clinic but not from nursing.
“She continued on in a humanitarian fashion, providing her time in Haiti,” he said. “Nursing was always in her blood.”
Martin made her first trip to Haiti not long after she retired; this was her fourth trip to the country to conduct clinics in rural areas.
“She worked with some of the most impoverished citizens on the island, helping to administer aid, medical care, dressing, immunizations,” Norris said.
Val Thomson, a friend and coworker of Martin’s for 29 years, said they talked about mission trips and Martin always encouraged her to go to Haiti.
“She was always almost overwhelmed by the poverty and didn’t feel like she was doing enough or the team was doing enough,” Thomson said. “She was the most loving, caring and kind person I ever knew, and a great role model – I always wanted to be like her.”
Thomson said Martin was “a rock” to her husband Ron, their three sons and 10 grandchildren.
Norris described her as friendly, knowledgeable, outgoing and a positive person who wore “a smile much more than a frown.”
Martin was a mentor for many of the nurses and new physicians, Norris said, orienting them not only to office procedures but also helping them understand the people and families who came into the clinic.
“It was often invaluable, understanding who you’re dealing with, not just the item at hand.”
After her retirement, she still dropped by the clinic and was happy to help out when needed, as when the clinic asked for help with holding H1N1 immunization clinics last fall.
“It’s going to be a difficult time at the office for the next while,” Norris said. “Everyone had quite a close relationship with her and she’s had a close relationship with us, so we’ll have to go through a difficult period of adjustment.”
The Mennonite Central Committee announced it will be responding to the quake, although it was too soon to say exactly how. The agency has 23 staff in the country.
Donations to help victims of the disaster should be designated Haiti Earthquake and can be made online at mcc.org. Cheques can be mailed or dropped off at the MCC Ontario office, 50 Kent Ave. Kitchener, N2G 3R1. Credit card donations can also be made by calling 1-800-313-6226.