A Humanitarian Experience

September 2013

The 2013 surgical week was very productive and rewarding as we were able to manage over 50 patients in the clinic setting and completed five spine reconstructive cases which required over 30 hours of actual surgical time for our 23 volunteers.  The surgery was completed during the first 3 days, and three of the patients required 1-2 days in the intensive care. The overall average length of hospital days prior to discharge were four days.

All of the patients were happy with their results at the time of their follow up appointments in October.

  The two photos represents the before and after spine reconstruction on  a teenage female with neurofibromatosis.  She only needed two days in the h0spital and was discharged with no issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our most recent experience September 2011 as well as earlier this year in March, we were rewarded with the experience of reaching out to those who could not help themselves by providing much needed conservative and surgical treatment.

We have encountered numerous patients with severe limb disabling conditions that could have been prevented years ago with timely surgical intervention, members of humanity with severe progressive scoliosis of different ages who are now experiencing profound changes in their ability to ambulate or use their arms for simple activities of daily living.

Most of the patients we evaluated were pre-adolescent children, and adults during the last year.  Due to the profound lack of financial resources, these individuals are faced with the only option of watching their function decline and are unable to obtain the necessary medical or surgical attention which would allow them to remain gainfully employed in an effort to support their families, or develop properly into young adults.

During the September 2011 surgical trip, we completed a number of surgeries which included idiopathic scoliosis reconstructions, profound acute and progressive cervical (neck) stenosis with myelpathy (compression on the spinal cord resulting in loss of the ability to use either arms or legs effectively), lumbar spinal stenosis which resulted in a mans inability to walk greater than 3 minutes without the need to sit, as well evaluation of congenital and neuromuscular scoliosis patients.

We often operated late into the evening, and the very last surgery of the trip was completed just after midnight to help preserve one patients ability to use what was remaining of his arm function, from a cripling neurologic injury to his spinal cord.

We enjoyed greatly the opportunity to serve both God and helping man in this effort.  Without your financial and equipment support, we would not be able to continue this work, and your generosity touches the lives of many children and adult in some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

 

Previous  Experience:

In September 2010, I volunteered on a surgical medical mission to Santiago, Dominican Republic. This was one of the most rewarding personal experiences I have encountered. Our team was comprised of nurses, doctors, surgical technicians, company representatives, office managers and monitoring technicians; all of which volunteered their time and skills to provide free care for the ill in Santiago.

At our arrival in Santiago, we were welcomed by the most hospitable friendly people I have ever met and had the most delicious “typical” Dominican meal.

Our typical day began at 6:30 in the morning with a wonderful and fulfilling breakfast at our hotel followed by a bus ride to the hospital by 7:00 in the morning.

On the first day our team interviewed and examined numerous patients that filled the lobby waiting for help.  The lobby was filled with hundreds of people with many different medical problems from Orthopedic to General Surgical issues.   Dr. Pitt continued to see patients until late and scheduled many patients for surgery.  We spent time sorting out our medical supplies and prepared our operating room for surgery. As exhausted as we were, we could not wait to begin our early surgeries scheduled for the next 4 days.

Between surgeries, we continued to evaluate many patients with spine related issues.  There was one particular 5 year old girl who Dr. Pitt evaluated on the last day of the trip, who’s scoliosis was already very severe and was very likely to progress.  Her functional future without surgical correction was not good.

I was fortunate to have visited the Children’s Burn Unit one afternoon; we brought toys and stuffed animals to many children in that hospital, their smiles where simply priceless.

It was difficult to leave such a wonderful country of hospitable people.  The last day was the end and the begining of an incredible medical journey.

Writen by  Lorena E. Thiele, RN

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My first trip to the Dominican Republic was an eye opener.  I did not really know what to expect.  I had pictured helping the unemployed and underemployed with healthcare needs that were out of their reach.  What I did not expect to see were the major differences in healthcare in which we receive in the United States and the level of care available to those in the Dominican Republic.

The people of the DR are generally impoverished, with little or no opportunity for education and becoming gainfully employed.  I remember seeing a family (dad, mom and a child that might have been a 1 year old) riding on a small motorcycle all without helmets and the child being cradled between the father and mother.  This is quite normal for this area as this is for most the only means of transportation a family can afford.

The HOMS hospital facility in Santiago, I am told, is the nicest and best healthcare facility in the area.  This hospital has limited equipment and in some cases makeshift equipment.

This hospital has roughly 6 operating suites and only one surgical scope and one x ray machine.  Staff and patients must share this equipment which delays or even prevents care to being given.  Our team had to use a sterile trash bag to cover the scope to operate, all other supplies are very limited if available at all.

The waiting room was full of roughly 120 patients that in some cases traveled a day for an opportunity for medical treatment that they could either not afford or simply was not available in the area in which they live.  The people in Santiago were so very grateful for the mission and work the organization was doing to help the people of the DR have a chance at a healthier life.

Alleviate Pain, Restore Health, Extend Life.

Writen by Daniel Kamm