By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.
Dr. Robert Whitaker and Dr. Mark Pearson recently returned from a nine-day trip to Haiti. Healing Hands International helped with the travel expense for the two doctors who responded to the needs of this devastated country. They had to land in the Dominican Republic and drive across the island because the airport at Port-au-Prince was closed to all by military traffic shortly after the earthquake. Since they didn’t travel with a group, they linked up with a church-supported orphanage where they received their meals and lodging.
Most of their time was spent helping at the University of Miami’s hospital which was simply a large tent holding about 300 patients. Since the majority of the injuries involved orthopedic care, Bob and Mark were assigned to nursing duties like dressing changes. Three other general surgeons also volunteering through the University were involved with this work.
Bob did get to do some other work after they found out that he was trained in obstetrics. He supervised two Cuban trained doctors still completing their residences in obstetrics. There were eight deliveries the first night at the tent. Many of the women were supposed to be delivered elsewhere but their hospitals had been destroyed and for some of them their doctors had been injured.
Bob had to do a cesarean section on one patient who could not deliver otherwise. He said he was happy that his had and arm, which were injured four months ago in the kidnapping in Africa, now worked almost normally again. It was his first work in surgery since the compound fracture caused by the gunshot would to his humorus in September.
Bob said many of the first responders to the earthquake found people with extremity fractures and pelvic fractures. Because the injuries were of the compound type (the bones sticking out of the skin), the wounds quickly became septic necessitating amputations.
After a week assisting with the wounded, it looked to the two doctors that there were enough personnel to handle the patients and they were happy to get back to the United States.
Bob is to leave Monday for Jos, Nigeria where he will reunite with his family and hopes to get a teaching position at the medical school there.
Editor’s Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.