Published on February 25, 2012
Anesthesiologist Dr. Jeff Zbitnew and nurse Tina Parrill recover a pediatric patient during Team Broken Earth’s medical mission to Haiti. — Submitted photo
Published on February 25, 2012
Nurses Heather Flight (left) and Mary O’Brien with one of their patients. — Submitted photo
Team Broken Earth leaves after successful medical mission
By the time they leave Haiti today, a team of doctors, nurses and other health care providers from this province will have treated about 500 patients in a one-week period.
Team Broken Earth was working out of Bernard Mevs hospital in Port-au-Prince. It’s where the sickest and most critically injured people come for help, Dr. Andrew Furey said during a telephone interview from the hospital Wednesday.
“These are deplorable conditions but I can tell you this is the best hospital in Port-au-Prince so anyone that comes here has a great deal of hope in us and this is their last hope.”
Furey is an orthopedic surgeon and the team’s leader.
From repairing cleft lips to treating burns to operating on patients who have been stabbed, shot and injured in car crashes — the team has been working around-the-clock, making do with what medical equipment they have but wishing they had more.
“There was a child involved in a motor vehicle accident yesterday but we just didn’t have a bed for her. So she had to be turned away to a different facility where they may or may not provide care for her,” Furey said.
Despite the lack of equipment, Furey said, the team is helping hundreds of patients, many still recovering from wounds they sustained in the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving another million people homeless.
“We operated on a young man who had a broken arm from the earthquake. It did not fully heal. We did surgery on it and he’s been discharged. Hopefully it will heal now and he’ll go on to lead a productive life,” Furey said.
Even before the quake struck, Furey said, Port-au-Prince was considered a dangerous city.
The violence increased after the quake, he said, with gunshot-wounds now an almost everyday occurrence.
“Police are beginning to reorganize themselves again with international help like the RCMP. But that’s taken time and it’s rather lawless outside the security gates of the compound,” Furey said.
The hospital is within the secured area.
Memorial University and Eastern Health is working in partnership with Project Medishare — an international initiative of the University of Miami’s medical school which built the hospital and relies on international teams of medical staff to support its day-to-day operations.
The trip is the team’s fourth mission to Port-au-Prince and Heather Flight’s first trip to Haiti.
Flight is a nurse on the team working in the hospital’s emergency department. The work is as exhausting as it is gratifying, she said.
“The amount of trauma that we’re seeing is more than I thought it would be — gunshot wounds and a lot of children with head injuries,” Flight said during a telephone interview Thursday.
While both Furey and Flight say the Haitians are extremely grateful for the care they are getting, Flight says it’s unusual to see emotion — perhaps that’s a hint of the horror these people have already endured.
“I’ve seen a few children pass on here and it’s horrible. But you’re not seeing the outflow of grief that you’d see at home. I think it’s just more of an acceptance down here.”
While she said having a patient die is difficult, Flight said the number of people who have been given a second chance keeps the team motivated.
“I have one Haitian gunshot victim here now waiting to go to the operating room. … He wants to write our hospital and thank them for sending us down. … He said people would not survive if we weren’t here… and that makes it all worthwhile.”
Flight said the trip to Haiti, where you sleep covered in a bed net to keep the bugs from biting, has made her made her more appreciative of what she has at home.
“If more people could experience something like this they’d see how lucky they are to be born where they were born … a place where people can go to bed at night with warm sheets and can walk the streets and feel safe and secure.”
The team will return to Haiti in July.
Furey said the long-term goal is to bring Haitians doctors and other health professionals to Memorial University for further training.