Monday, January 24, 2011

A Week In Haiti

Part of a Tent City -- Too many still there
56 year old female diabetic with necrotizing fasciitis and sepsis had left above the knee amputation is still on the ventilator after surgery…

12 year old female with total body paralysis with multiple complications on the ventilator…

46 year old man with non-healing ulcer on the thigh for unknown reason, has been here on antibiotics for 2 months…

Your food will show up on your bed (down the hall from the patient wards) at 10 am and 2 pm, you can eat it when you like…

You are not to leave the hospital compound for any reason.  The election results are coming out and there may be riots…

In the ICU
Cholera patients are to be stabilized and then sent to the local cholera treatment centers.  Make sure to decontaminate with bleach when leaving the cholera treatment area behind the hospital…
Words of introduction that we received as we checked in to the Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti on New Year’s Day, as the outgoing team prepared to leave in the afternoon back to Florida.  I spent the week as the main inpatient doctor for this small hospital in Haiti’s capital.  I was with a team of doctors and nurses from the States, working with Haitian doctors and nurses caring for some of the sick in a country that has seen much hardship.

One of the Surgery Cases - Dr. Seth
I have gone on quite a few volunteer trips over the years, and I thought this one would be somewhat different:  I was right.  Teams from “Project Medishare,” have been rotating through on a weekly basis regularly since the earthquake last year, first in a tent hospital at the airport, and for the last several months at the current location, partnering with an already-established hospital.  Initially very busy with surgeries on the injured, now the focus is more on medical conditions and rehabilitation, though new trauma patients also come in.  And of course there is cholera.

The week was very full.  We treated many patients with high quality medical care.  Despite language and culture barriers, the Haitian staff and the American volunteers worked well together.  The numerous translators of course were indispensible, and it was fun to use my French skills, which have been rusting over 20 years of disuse.

Highs and lows included seeing the 12-year-old girl get transported to the U.S. for more care, through the generosity of many kind donors.  Seeing a spinal injured patient get stable enough to reach his goal of going home.  Losing a severe cholera patient to a sickle crisis after successfully pulling him back from death once.  Teaching Haitian medical students.  Every day was full of interesting and demanding medical work. And I was able to grab a few precious minutes alone with my Bible in the mornings in a secluded courtyard.

In the hospital Courtyard
Jennifer asks me: what did God teach me through this trip?  Probably several things:  That it is difficult to get a good understanding of peoples’ suffering by watching television.  That simply doing a good job in your field is of great physical and even spiritual value.

I must thank God for providing the opportunity to go on this short trip.  And also those who prayed and supported me, not the least of which was my wife Jenifer who has to care for the household while I am away and is a trip-organizer extraordinaire! 

Why do I keep up with overseas volunteering?  Several reasons probably:  I want to make a difference.  I hope to be of help where the need is great.  It is very interesting medically.  It is an adventure.  I find other cultures and peoples fascinating.  But I hope and pray most of all it is the Lord Jesus working in and through me in His love, in spite of myself many times.

Dr Barry, Dr Paul and Translator
Please continue to remember the people of Haiti in their suffering.  There are many worthy people there who love their country and are doing their very best to make it better; pray for them and for God’s mercy in their rebuilding, and the battle against cholera.

Paul Bunge, MD

P.S.  You may be interested in helping out financially with some of the projects in Haiti.  Consider one of the following agencies working there:

Project Medishare

Samaritan’s Purse

And to fund scientific research into spinal injuries, consider the University of Miami’s “The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis”:

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