Tomball woman helped quake victims in Haiti

January 18, 2010 5:34:14 PM PST
A local college student was pushed to her limit. She was in Haiti when the quake hit, ten miles from the epicenter, and says her experience in that devastated country changed her. Noelle Gonzalez went to Haiti for a mission trip in December, but she never expected to live through one of the deadliest disasters of her lifetime.

Noelle was on her third mission trip to Haiti to deliver faith and hope to children.

"The bed started shaking and I've never been in an earthquake before and didn't know what it was," said Noelle.

The violent tremors threw Noelle off her bed. She says she still hasn't been able to shake that unstable feeling or the earth's roaring she heard before each aftershock.

"I'd hear it first and then get scared," she said.

Noelle's first glimpse of disaster was inside a clinic where she volunteered. Miraculously, her building was still intact.

"It wasn't hard to be in the clinic when I was in the clinic. But it was hard to go back home and lay there and think about what I had seen," she said.

Noelle admits she was way outside the scope of her training. She's just a 20-year-old Texas A&M student, but in that moment she was thrown into operating rooms, patching wounds with her hands.

"I helped with four surgeries where we sutured all the way down to the skull," she said.

Noelle's heartbreaking task, cleaning and calming patients, was the best she could without anesthesia.

"I would just hold their hand and say, 'Jesus is here. Jesus knows. Jesus loves you,'" Noelle said.

From Tomball, Noelle's mother Marie was sick with worry.

"I was immediately I was gripped by fear," Marie said.

Marie relied on prayer until she heard her daughter's voice on a garbled message.

"It just said, 'earthquake, okay.' And that was basically all we could understand," said Marie.

Relief swept over the mother and daughter once they reunited on Saturday. As they waited, faith gelled their bond, which they say can't be rattled by any earthquake.

"God kept me and held me when he was there and he's gonna continue," Noelle said.

Noelle says she plans to go back to Haiti this summer to do humanitarian work, and one day she says she hopes to open her own clinic there.