Sunday, June 10, 2012

Morning Roosters

Roosters crow in the distance, the sky is beginning to turn pink, and a mother hen and her babies walk by as I sit in front of the guesthouse on a tropical Sabbath morning.  Soon it will be time to wake up the residents and take them for a run up the hill.  Even in Haiti we try to respect the ACGME guidelines to make sure they get enough rest.  These peaceful moments in the early morning are one of my favorite.  The warm humid air is reminiscent of our time living here in the West Indies.  Soon music will be permeating the campus as worshipers enthusiastically crowd into the local churches.

As I look over this campus – an oasis in the middle of an area of urban squalor, I wonder what it would be like if Albert Schweitzer the well known African missionary doctor were in charge.  Dr. Schweitzer was an advocate of preserving life and protecting nature.  He did not even allow flies to be killed in the dining room or a tree to be cut down in order to make a new entrance into the hospital.  Here at HAH there has been some new construction and some improvements but the deforestation of banana trees in the front corner of the campus has made visible all the trash that did not get hauled away with the foliage and now one looks out to the block wall topped off with razor wire.  It is a scenario representative of many processes here.  Nonetheless work is being done…

Kids Sabbath School at church next door
Dr. Ian Alexander

On a brighter note patients are still arriving from near and far for some of the most sophisticated orthopaedic operations in the country.  Perhaps to the people in Haiti we are analogous to a Cleveland Clinic or Baltimore International Center for Limb Lengthening.  Dr. Ian Alexander, an internationally recognized foot and ankle surgeon joined me this week, in addition to Dr. Sull, resident from Loma Linda, and Dr. Nepple, resident from Washington University in St. Louis.  Dr. Alexander said he came to learn more about pediatric orthopaedics, but all the rest of us learned far more from his breadth of knowledge and surgical expertise.  We even had a a little extra time for a world class lecture on foot and ankle surgery after finishing surgery on Thursday evening.  This was followed by an excellent spaghetti dinner made by Lucia and Maria.
Kati recovering from surgery (see previous post)
Wilner after surgery and before

 Tim Gerke and his two friends Leah and Andrew were a great help in our operating and recovery room.  Tim and Leah are ICU nurses in Portland.  While in between hospital duties they were busy running back and forth to local orphanages, buying food, supervising construction projects and hugging kids.

Tim, Leah and Roosevelt at orphanage

Many of our patients with the most severe deformities are treated with external fixators which in many cases can be programmed with special software to do gradual corrections.  Gradual correction of severe deformity permits safer, less invasive surgery and is often times less painful.  This has a lot of advantages however does require close patient follow up and these operations really are not “over” until the correction is completely corrected weeks to months later.  We did a lot of follow up and fine tuning on cases from our previous trip as well as some checking on expertly performed cases from the Team Sinai trip last month headed up by John and Merrill Herzenberg.  It has been incredible to have surgeons like John come down and put their vast experience at work on exotic and difficult problems. The most incredible part is the lives that are changed by these operations.

View from top of ridge
The week was finished off by a motorcycle ride through Carrefour and up to the top of the ridge.  Some think I tolerate risk, but Dr. Alexander asked if he could go along with me on the back, superseding any risk that I would likely have taken.  Being the driver was enough for me.  To put it in modest terms the road is a rutted, steep track up the hill with loose softball sized rocks covering much of it.  Anyhow we survived the trip unharmed, with appreciation for God’s grace and the $2 a day travelers insurance policy from AHI.