Peggy Wilson returns home
Peggy Wilson is welcomed home from Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2010, by friend and fellow church member Connie Hoskins, of Bettendorf, after arriving at her Bettendorf home. Wilson and four other members of Bettendorf Christian Church were on a mission trip to Haiti when the earthquake struck. She was injured when a wall fell on her.

BENTTENDORF --- The collapsed wall, four days on an improvised backboard, a nighttime airlift to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, and evacuation out of Port-au-Prince are a whirl of memories for Peggy Wilson.

Wilson, 55, who was on a mission trip to Haiti with four other women from the Quad-Cities, suffered several broken ribs and a punctured lung in the earthquake that devastated the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12. She was injured when an 8-foot wall collapsed on her.

She and her husband lived in Waterloo before he was transferred by John Deere to the Quad-Cities.

"It seems like a blur - a bad dream," she said Tuesday after returning home to Bettendorf. "I'd never been in an earthquake before, and I never want to be in one again."

She received tentative but emotional hugs from her fellow volunteers Judy Rands, Jeanie Hess and Joy Sellers. Wilson cried as she thanked Sellers, a surgical nurse for Genesis Health System, who stayed by her side until she was airlifted out of the missionary compound in Grand Goave, about 40 miles west of Port-au-Prince.

Although cell phones were not to be used during the mission, Wilson had permission while she was in Haiti to text her pregnant daughter, Jenny Nelson, who was experiencing complications. She was texting her daughter in a quiet courtyard when the earthquake struck, bringing the wall down on her.

"I heard rumbling, and I was thrown into the backyard," Wilson said. "It looked like a building was coming at me."

A firefighter from Ohio who was on the mission was able to free Wilson from the rubble, get her on a backboard and check her vital signs.

She stayed immobile for the next three days. The women saw a Navy helicopter pass over the area Thursday, and then it arrived without warning Friday night.

"Suddenly, there was a man in my face," she said. "They asked Joy for my vitals."

Wilson admitted she is afraid of heights and was scared when she was strapped in to be lifted to the helicopter.

"Once I came off the ground, a peace came over me, and I was gone," she said.

She said Tuesday that the medical staff of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson was compassionate in her treatment, as she showed off a T-shirt they signed for her.

After a night onboard the ship, she was transferred to the Port-au-Prince airport, where she awaited evacuation. During her wait, she learned that her fellow Quad-Citians, including Clare Ullrich, had reached Port-au-Prince. The Quad-Citians and the rest of the Lifeline Christian Mission group flew back to the United States on Saturday, and the four other women returned to the Quad-Cities on Sunday.

The women's trek from Grand Goave to Port-au-Prince was a five-hour journey that included a single-file walk across a cracked bridge ahead of the bus and truck in which they were traveling.

Tyrone Wilson, Peggy Wilson's husband, and Nelson, their daughter, arrived in Florida on Sunday. Tyrone Wilson said he was warned that his wife was scraped and cut, but he thought she looked fine.

In the first couple of days after the earthquake, Tyrone Wilson said he was concerned but not worried. That changed when her condition seemed to worsen. The worry lifted when he got word from the Carl Vinson.

"The doctor called from the ship and handed her the phone," he said. "We're just glad she's back."

The family returned Tuesday afternoon on a Deere & Co. aircraft. Tyrone Wilson works for Deere.

Peggy Wilson thought of her experience and knows it pales to the suffering Haitians continue to face.

"I need to go back," she said, choking back tears. "There are a lot of people hurting down there."

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments