Monday, June 30, 2008

June 2008 Haiti Trip 13

Ou ban-m lespua You give me hope

Every 3 months we go to Cap Haitien and work at the regional government hospital – Hopital Justinien Universitaire with the intention of treating children with deformities, injuries and infections. This was our 13th trip in just over 3 years of providing this consistent service to the people of northern Haiti. In just 5 days we saw nearly 200 patients and operated 36 people with various orthopaedic problems.

This trip I was privileged to be working with Dr. Howard Place (Spine surgeon, St. Louis University) and Dr. Sam Chen (ortho resident Loma Linda University) along with our hard working Dominican CURE staff and several other visitors. Dr. Place has worked in Haiti before and also come to CURE Dominicana twice to perform spinal deformity surgery. His technical abilities and compassionate service are a great asset to the mission of CURE and our work on Isla Hispaniola. We also owe a big thanks to Jim Forbes photographer from the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper who was with us on this trip as well. Not only will you notice some professional photos from this trip but he also mopped floors, operated the x-ray machine, and transferred patients amongst other things.

At the beginning of the week I often times feel overwhelmed and apprehensive about the magnitude and difficulty of problems that are likely to present themselves during the week. After finishing our 36th operation in 5 days, Jim asked me how I felt. Always a bit shell shocked from the experience, I can only liken it to all the emotions a soldier must have when he is returning home from war. In spite of long work hours and little sleep we don’t feel tired until the last case is done. The suffering of the people and the love created by the giving and acceptance of acts of kindness fills the team with emotion that provokes deep thought and leaves one changed forever.

The urgencies and case volume leaves little time for personal interaction with the patients, making one of my favorite times of the week Saturday morning rounds when we visit with our patients and review their post operative care plan before heading home. The 67 year old man in bed 24 Monseur Luime said to me “Ou ban-m lespua” You give me hope. During our last trip in April this same man had been in bed 24. In fact he had been suffering for 10 months with a severe segmental open tibia fracture. Because of the severe infection and little hope for salvage we had left his care to the local doctors. Since they had done nothing the bone was still exposed, although the infection had somewhat improved. This trip we saw him still sitting in bed 24 begging us to help him. With a 2 hour reconstructive surgery we placed an external fixator, removed the nonviable bone and covered the wound with a muscle flap and skin graft. Thanks to the companies and personal donors that support this work we are able to come prepared to take care of a wide variety of injuries and deformities. Often only a couple hours of our time along with the healing powers of our creator can make a life changing difference in those that we serve.