Call for Continued Help and Surgical Rotation
After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti left thousands of victims in its wake, nearly 20 APSA members put their lives on hold to travel to Haiti to help its youngest victims. With an estimated 40% of the population of Haiti being under the age of 18, many of the injured were children in need of specialized surgical care.
|Volunteers operated in austere conditions.
"The first 4 days of our mission, we were operating 22 hours per day, and being ordered to lie down for two hours. It was truly chaos," said Dr. Shawn Safford, of Bethesda, MD, who deployed with the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort to Haiti. "The most difficult part...of the mission was the inability to treat all of the patients, and patients that you had to make expectant would not have been expectant in a less chaotic situation," said Dr. Colin Knight, who came to Haiti as part of a coordinated team from Miami Children's Hospital. "By presenting with an entire team we were able to have a coordinated approach to provide care to the children," he added.
The chaos, austere operating conditions, lack of surgical tools and general anesthesia proved challenging for the medical personnel. Noting the vast difference in standards of care between the United States and the post-earthquake conditions in Haiti, Dr. John Lawrence of Seattle, WA, noted, "The experience has been very challenging, but also very rewarding." Dr. Lawrence spent the month of February in a Port-au-Prince, Haiti hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. "I've worked with both children and adults with lots of amputation revisions, basic open wound management, skin grafting and helping with complex orthopedic work...It is also a testimony to our specialty and the people who have provided training in it to others, for the breadth of experience which APSA has long emphasized as being necessary in becoming a pediatric surgeon...," he added.
APSA board member, Henri Ford, MD, of Children's Hospital - Los Angeles, said, "Participating in the earthquake response efforts was a phenomenal, life-changing experience. We also took care of numerous gunshot wounds." Dr. Ford noted that a major issue they confronted was coordinating long-term follow up for patients who require specific care for fractures or complex wounds, as well as rehabilitation and physical therapy for most of the amputees. Dr. Ford travelled to his native Haiti serving as a member of the DMAT and IMSuRT teams deployed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Echoing Dr. Ford's concern, Dr. Safford says the biggest impact on that community and difficulty in treating the patients is the dire future need for prosthetics. "I encourage all to contact their respective aid agencies and let them know that prostheses are critical to the future survival of these children," he urged. APSA members are now working to form a pediatric surgical volunteer rotation to ensure that the specialized care that pediatric surgeons can provide continues in Haiti.
APSA members were given a glimpse of the experience in Haiti following the earthquake via a photo display at the annual meeting in May. The need for donations and other help continue for the ongoing efforts needed in Haiti. See the APSA Web site for more information.
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