Surgical Team Visit, February 2009

A surgical team of 18 doctors and nurses visited Medical Missionaries' St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, in February 2009 to perform surgery on patients and to provide professional development for the clinic staff.  This is the story of their visit.

The team flew into Santo Domingo, then proceeded by bus to St. Francis Center in Banica (Dominican Republic).  They overnighted at the Center and went the following morning in a Medical Missionaries' army truck to Thomassique, about 20 miles from the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The ride from Banica to Thomassique is not easy.  The roads are twisted and full of ruts.  Fortunately, for this group, the weather was sunny and mild.

The scenery along the way is impressive but it also is a stark reminder of the impact Haiti is suffering from having cut down most of the trees that once filled these hillsides.  Soil erosion has meant that food crops will not grow on much of this land.

The route takes you through about five rivers such as this one.  Because there are no bridges, this team was thankful it was the dry season and not the rainy season.

There is always a warm welcome on arriving at the clinic, especially for specialists who are returning for the second time or more.  (Some of our volunteer doctors, dentists, and nurses have made more than a dozen trips to the region, extending back before the clinic was built.)

Patients were waiting in the outdoor waiting room when the surgical team arrived.

The nurses got started right away, setting up the operating rooms and other areas of the clinic.

At the same time, the doctors started triage, the process of meeting with patients and reviewing the cases to determine what might be needed.

It was not long before the cases were arranged for the first day.  The schedule was full; it would be a long day of operations.

The facilities of the clinic are good, but with a large team of doctors and nurses such as this, space was at a premium.  Pre-operation procedures were done in the hallway.

Patients received excellent care in the hands of these doctors and nurses, care that would not have been available to them absent this clinic.

Most of the operations required a post-op stay that varied from several hours to a few days.  During this time, the patients were often accompanied by family members as well as medical staff.

The physicians treated so many people that they ran out of post-op space and had to convert the interior waiting room to a satellite post-op area.

Some of the team members took time to visit the residents of the city's "Poor House."  One year ago, the Poor House was quite run down and looked like this.

Thanks to the hard work of a small team of Medical Missionaries volunteers in January 2009, the Poor House has a new look, freshly painted walls inside and out, and new doors.  It now lifts the spirits of the people who live there.

One of the goals in visiting the Poor House was to bring a stroller to a family whose young son has cerebral palsy and is not able to walk.  Until now, the mother has had to carry the child everywhere.  Thanks to the gift from Medical Missionaries, the mother is now able to wheel her son through town.

After a week that included over 80 surgeries, the team packed up its equipment and prepared to make their way back to Santo Domingo and the U.S.  They left behind them a better life for many individuals and families of Thomassique.

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