Surgery Update (Fall 2016) - J. Hale, MD
Friends of Haiti (FoH), Green Bay is in its seventh year of surgery in Haiti. We partnered with, and do surgery at, Double Harvest in Croix des Bouquets, a suburb of Port au Prince. Double Harvest is a Baptist organization from Oberlin, OH.
We met on a flight to Haiti. The surgery teams continue to follow the medical teams to Haiti by about one month. The idea is to get some of our patients from the mountains to Double Harvest and take care of their surgical problems.
To date we have had general, gynecologic, urologic, and ophthalmologic surgeons join us on our trips. The most common surgeries are breast lesions, cataracts, hernias, hydroceles, and hysterectomies. It is not unusual to have an emergency walk through the door. Sadly, we have had a few deaths over the years. The trips are one week long. In 5 days we do approximately 60 open procedures and 60 eye procedures. Our referral process is a long way from perfection. We have tried several different processes with limited success. This is a source of frustration. If anybody has a good idea we would love to hear from you.
As is customary with FoH, the team members are all volunteer and pay for their flight and per diem ($60.00/person/day). The per diem is then forwarded to Double Harvest. Team members join us from coast to coast. Due to space constraint, surgery teams are usually 18 or fewer.
Preparatory work is done before every trip. We are indebted to all our volunteers in the US and Haiti. Without our members at home we could never get ready for these trips.
Accommodations at Double Harvest are luxurious. We have AC, beds, and showers. Sometimes the water in the shower is warm! There is never a lack of work.
I am always amazed by the people of Haiti. They are beautiful, faithful, tough, and trusting. I find it unbelievable that they will meet us for 10 minutes, let us cut them open to remove a watermelon sized hernia, hydrocele, or uterus, or work on an eye (!), and as they are leaving for home the next morning, hug us with a prayer saying we were sent by God to help them. It is truly humbling.
One of the reasons I have been going to Haiti for 16 years is to keep things in perspective. If you would like to join FoH, please contact us.
A few reflections from travelers are listed below.
Dr. Jack wrote this in 2012: One of my favorite stories is that of a woman we saw in Montalais, which is the most remote mountain town to which FoH travels. It is a 9 mile mountainous hike from the main road. The lady came to Montalais because of a large benign tumor hanging from her axilla (armpit). It weighed 20 to 25 pounds. She had to tuck it in her dress and strap it to her chest just to be able to walk and function at home. FoH got her to Double Harvest to be seen by the surgical team. Our general surgeon excised the mass. The following morning at 7:30 am the patient was dressed and ready to travel home. She could not hold her arm at her side due to the pain of the 6 inch incision, but she had a smile from ear to ear. Her life was going to be better and she hugged us all as she walked out the door.
Kristi Rasmussen Sarosiek wrote this in April 2015: I am sitting outside this evening listening to a prayer service held for the patients and their families here at Double Harvest Clinic/Surgery Center. Their voices are heard in beautiful song and reverent sermon. They are kneeling outside on concrete with blankets they've brought with them (along with pots of food to feed their family members as they recover) to await tomorrow. Some will receive devastating news and others will receive a new lease on life. I thank God that he brought me here to learn, help, appreciate what I have, and what I have to offer. Life is good and I am blessed.
Dr. Amit Tandon wrote in April 2015: Truly amazing people and team that help so many people. Special thanks to Mathew Joseph Thompson who invited me on this trip and showed me the ropes. Matt and I did 61 eyes and the team will do well over 100 surgeries. (The eye procedures included cataracts, corneal transplants, pterygiums)