PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti Dr. Will Conner spotted his old friend about 100 yards away, outside the airport on a dusty road near a community of blue-and-white tents that are home to hundreds of people displaced by last year's devastating earthquake.
Donald Chaudry, who lost several family members in the quake, beamed when he saw Conner.
"Will, Je suis la. Je suis la," he called out. "I am here. I am here."
The pair embraced, and Conner uttered an audible sigh of relief. He needed Chaudry's help once again. This time, they are moving some 2,600 pounds of medical supplies through the chaotic streets of Port-au-Prince to the United Nations compound where a helicopter was waiting to ferry the supplies on to the northern part of the country.
Conner returned to Haiti on Monday with a new medical team from Charlotte. They will spend a week here, on this first anniversary of the earthquake, treating those still suffering from injuries - and now taking on people suffering from the cholera outbreak that has beset the nation.
Conner is joined by Dr. Hadley Wilson, chief cardiologist at Charlotte's Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, and Kim Parker, a Carolinas Medical Center nurse.
And, as before, Chaudry is along to guide them through his native land.
Conner met Chaudry by chance on the street last January. But he has since joined Conner on five subsequent trips to Haiti, playing the role of physicians' aide, security guard, translator and guide through a complicated culture.
Although exactly one year has gone by since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people, left 1.5 million homeless and ravaged this already-fragile nation, much of the country still struggles to survive - despite the pledge of some $10 billion in international aid.
Haiti's collapsed presidential palace has become a symbol of stalled progress. The teetering dome on the grand neoclassical structure that housed leaders since the mid-18th century seems to represent the feelings of many Haitians following the earthquake, a hurricane and a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 3,000 since it struck last fall.
"Nothing has changed," Chaudry says. "People still live in tents. The national palace is destroyed."
The lack of more visible signs of improvement has left not only Haitians frustrated, but Americans and North Carolinians who have donated thousands from their own pocketbooks.
Conner recognizes the feelings of many Americans who may have given up on Haiti, but says there is still good work being done that doesn't make the TV news.
"There is still great need," Conner says. "A lot of money has been donated, but there is not a lot of progress. People know of the corrupt society, so why give? But being here, you see people in the trenches. People making a difference on a daily basis."
Conner is referring to relief efforts by American and international groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health, but also to the work of the Haitians, who are helping their own people day in, and day out. People like Chaudry and Dr. Harold Durand who, a day after the earthquake, drove eight hours from Cap-Haitien to Port-au-Prince and set up a street clinic.
Durand has since opened his backyard in Cap-Haitien to Doctors Without Borders and set up a hospital unit, where some 1,500 cholera victims have been treated since November.
On Tuesday morning, Conner and his two Charlotte colleagues, Wilson and Parker, were inside Durand's clinic when a 19-year-old woman in a stupor arrived by motorcycle.
Juslene Alcinor said her cousin, Isléme, 19, began having diarrhea around 2 a.m., then started vomiting. Juslene worried it was cholera and summoned a motorcycle taxi to take them to Durand's clinic. Isléme couldn't hold herself up, so she was wedged between the driver and her cousin for the 15-minute trip over pitted roads.
At 9:05 a.m., Conner had a stethoscope pressed against her chest listening for a heartbeat. He couldn't feel a pulse in her arm - a sign she might be going into shock. He pinched her stomach to check the elasticity of her skin. Instead of returning to normal, it pitched up for an extra moment, indicating severe dehydration.
She faded in and out of consciousness. A Haitian nurse inserted an IV into Isléme's left arm. They gave her more than 10 liters of water, salts and potassium.
Within 10 minutes, Conner asked how she felt. She didn't respond, but turned her head to look at him. He asked again.
"Vertigo," she whispered, her head falling back to the side.
Conner waited a minute before speaking to her again.
"Does anything hurt?" he said.
She tapped on her head. A headache is a common sign of the dehydration caused by cholera.
Soon, she was bent over her cot, vomiting.
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine, which is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water. It causes severe dehydration. Without fluids, a person suffering from cholera can die within hours if not treated.
Isléme might have had just a few hours to live if she hadn't gotten to the clinic, Wilson said. She had already lost about 20 percent of her fluids.
"When you lose so many electrolytes, your organs shut down," Parker said. "You have multisystem collapse, including your brain, heart and kidneys."
Parker said if Isléme had arrived at Carolinas Medical Center, she would have been considered in critical condition.
"She's an intensive care patient being treated in a tent," Parker said.
Dr. Eugene Maklin, who has acted as a liaison for Conner and the local Minister of Health, called it a relief every time Conner comes to Haiti.
"When Dr. Will comes, he brings medicine and doctors," he said. "He gives lectures. And he brings enough medicine that we can save some for later. We have a lot of sick people."
Conner calls this trip more personal. He knows a weeklong relief effort is not going to save Haiti or wipe out cholera. But he says his goal is to build relationships with medical groups so his relief organization, Community Health Access International, can make a greater difference down the road.
Conner also wants to let his friends know he hasn't forgotten them. In addition to Chaudry, he wants to spend time with 4-year-old Jacky Delva, a patient he helped bring to Charlotte last year for surgery to reconstruct facial injuries he suffered when his house collapsed in the earthquake.
His team will also provide care at the orphanage of 107 kids that Conner and his wife, Natalie, sponsor.
"I don't want to let them down," he said.