Medical team from Thibodaux makes a difference in Haiti

Tuesday, Apr. 13
April 13, 2010
Thursday, Apr. 15
April 15, 2010
Tuesday, Apr. 13
April 13, 2010
Thursday, Apr. 15
April 15, 2010

Our media tends to highlight one tragedy after another. The recent earthquakes on the border of Mexico and California and the mining disaster in West Virginia have dominated the headlines lately.

Unfortunately, the severity of some major calamities like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti get lost in the more recent news stories.

Orthopedic surgeons Dr. David Elias and Dr. Jason Higgins; nurses Claire Clement and Cheryl Thomas; wound care nursing specialists, Denise Knight and Scott Ordoyne; anesthesiologist Dr. Elise Morvant; nurse anesthesiologist Kevin Anderson; anesthesia assistant Deborah Pentz; physical therapists, Steven Landry, Craig Pate, Eddie Himel and Caroline Franz all spent a week in Haiti helping those who were injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

When I visited Dr. Elias’ office before the group left, I was astonished at how many medical supplies and relief equipment they were taking.

“It is amazing how much stuff we packed to bring with us and all the generous donations [we received from] the community,” Dr. Elias said.

The donations of many generous people did, in fact, make a difference in the group’s relief effort.

To keep readers up-to-date with what is happening in Haiti, I asked Dr. David Elias to share his recent experiences in that devastated region. Here’s some of what he said:

“A group of medical professionals led by Dr. Jason Higgins and myself went to Haiti to help earthquake victims. We arrived in Haiti Saturday, March 27, and spent Holy Week helping to take care of the less fortunate.

“We worked and stayed at St. Damien Hospital, which is a children’s hospital funded from donations primarily from the United States, Europe and Canada.

“Following the earthquake, the facility was opened to care for adults as well as children. Father Rick is a priest and physician and a pillar of St. Damien Hospital. Although very humbled in comparison to American hospitals, we have learned that St. Damien is one of the better hospitals in all of Haiti.

“We started our trip by taking a truck to the top of the mountain to an orphanage run by Father Rick. There, we celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in Creole French.

“The first moving moment of the trip was certainly at that Palm Sunday Mass. There were 400 orphans singing throughout the Mass. Although I don’t speak Creole French, I could hear the joy in the voices of the singing children despite the fact that they have so little.

“The verse ‘blessed are the poor’ takes a significant meaning in Haiti.

“Most of our trip consisted of performing orthopaedic surgery on earthquake victims. We were repairing fractures that had healed in an incorrect position due to the lack of adequate medical care. The surgeries involved re-breaking the fractures and setting them straight and fixing them with hardware. We dealt with many amputations and infections.

“While in Haiti, we ran an orthopaedic clinic in which we saw 30 to 40 patients a day, most earthquake-related patients. The patients were very grateful for the services we provided to them.

“Being in the clinic, we saw the true destruction of the earthquake. There were also lots of stiff joints from getting inadequate medical care and physical therapy after their injuries.

“At St. Damien Hospital, there is a small chapel where we celebrate Mass every morning at 7. It was a wonderful way to start the long workday ahead of us.

“We also had Holy Thursday Mass in the chapel, in which Father Rick did the washing of the feet. This was also a moving experience.”

– Dr. Elias’ letter next week will continue next week.