In January 2010, the impoverished island nation of Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the worst in the country's history. More than one year later, economic and medical relief continues in an effort to rebuild the nation, local communities and lives of the Haitian people.
Members of a recent medical missions team to Haiti include NCH orthopedic surgical nurse Kim Thomas, RN (second from left), anesthesiologist Bob Bartolone, DO, and orthopedic surgeon Brian Donahue, MD. Both doctors are members of the NCH medical staff.
Recognizing the country's need for medical aid, two Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) medical staff members and one Hospital clinician took a weeklong volunteer medical mission trip to Haiti earlier this summer. Anesthesiologist Bob Bartolone, DO, orthopedic surgeon Brian Donahue, MD, and orthopedic surgical nurse Kim Thomas, RN, teamed up with a general surgeon from Iowa and a physical therapist from Chicago to form a five-person volunteer medical team.
The team's destination was Hospital Sacre Coeur, the largest private hospital in the northern region of Haiti and second busiest in the country. The 73- bed hospital is located in Milot, which is about 70 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the city hit hardest by the quake.
"You really gain a lot of perspective from a place like Milot," says Dr. Donahue. "You see first hand how devastating it can be not to have medical services that we take for granted in the U.S. and how it influences patient outcomes."
The scope of cases seen and treated at the hospital by the volunteer team was challenging. Some of the most difficult issues that the Haitian people face are a lack of follow-up care and access to medical specialists. This is evidenced by the team's encounter with a patient who was not walking three months after a distal femur fracture was fixed with an external fixator.
The team addressed the situation as Dr. Donahue, assisted by Kim Thomas, removed the patient's external fixator and plated the distal femur delayed union. The following day, with the help of a physical therapist, the patient walked on the injured leg for the first time in three months, and began exercises to bend and rehabilitate the knee.
In addition, poor hygiene, lack of adequate nursing, extreme heat and infections were among the many challenges the volunteer medical team faced during their visit. "Despite the conditions, the Haitian people are very supportive and appreciative of the care that we rendered while in Milot," Dr. Donahue adds.
Both Dr. Donahue and Dr. Bartolone have been to Haiti previously. However, this was the first medical mission for Kim Thomas. "This trip was a life changing event," Thomas says. "To be able to provide care to those who are less fortunate than we are has provided me with a new level of appreciation for what we have and what we can offer to others."
The medical mission trip was organized by the CRUDEM Foundation. Click here for more information.