Woodjina lies alone in her bed in a small room surrounded by ten other patients with orthopedic injures, all with various splints and traction devices set up. She swats at a mosquito and pulls against the traction device attached to her left leg. A coke bottle filled with cloudy water and tied to a rope dangles off the foot of her bed. It is attached to cardboard that envelops her left lower leg. Her right leg is in a splint, her left hip is dislocated, both are hot with fever. She wiggles to relieve the pain in the pressure sores that are developing after 3 weeks of bedrest. She is 5 years old.
On Tuesday of our week in Haiti, the team made rounds with the orthopedic residents at La Pays Hospital in Port-au-Prince. We reviewed cases and set up surgeries for some of the injured that had no means to pay for operative care. The resident surgeons are bright and thirsting for instruction and experience. There is no lack of pathology, just resources to treat. Patients that require surgery must find their own orthopedic implants and bring them to the hospital. Few can afford this.
Woodjina’s x-rays show a bizarre process in the right femur. It is something that as a Hand Surgeon, I have never seen. No one knows how her left hip became dislocated, but she had been febrile and limping for 5 weeks before coming to LaPays. I took photos of her x-rays and sent them off to several friends who are pediatric-ortho docs.
Our medical team included 15 volunteers who worked 12-16 hours each day, performing a total of 27 surgeries. We provided our own supplies and orthopedic equipment, and we paid the hospital fees for those patients who could not afford their care. Those that had insurance or the resources, paid their own hospital fees. In this way we strive to be part of the system.
Surgeries included orthopedic fracture repair, treatment of osteomyelitis and treatment of tumors. Our general surgeon worked with the local surgeons performing a variety of cases including hernia repairs, gall bladder and thyroid surgeries. Our plastic surgeon performed hand surgery, flap work and cleft lip reconstructions. We also performed follow up care to patients we previously treated following Hurricane Matthew. Despite their poverty, they are proud, happy and appreciative of the work we do for them.
Woodjina was our last surgical case. Opinions confirmed that this was an infection of her right femur and left hip. We drained 500 cc of purulent fluid from the right femur and placed some antibiotic beads that we had brought with us. These are not available in Haiti. We also debrided her left hip and had to throw away her proximal femur, it was dead and sitting in a bed of pus. We may have saved her life. Maybe.
Additionally, our electrical team worked for 9 days rebuilding the electrical system at Renmen Orphanage. Frantz, our local Haitian contact, had purchased supplies so the team could hit the ground running. This group from Anchorage and Flagstaff tore out the old copper wires, some of which were lying in pools of water. They were successful in rewiring about half of the orphanage structures. This is the best wiring job in Haiti!
Meredith, a pediatrician from Vermont, joined us and performed well-child checks on the 50 orphans. This was the first for many of them. We were able to acquire 60 doses of tetanus vaccine and vaccinated all 50 kids and 10 adults who were not up to date. Having watched a 10-year-old boy die from tetanus in October, we were motivated to get these kids protected. They lined up to get lollypops and a shot in the arm!
Lisa started a sewing project with several of the older girls, “Handmade for Haiti.” She brought a sewing machine and materials to the orphanage, and the girls were instructed in making headbands that will be sold in local Flagstaff shops, the proceeds will support their education. The girls were very excited to be doing something to support their schooling.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip for many of the volunteers was our last day in Haiti when we took all the kids from Renmen to the beach. Fifty kids piled into three air-conditioned buses and traveled to a residence on the ocean, an hour outside of Port-au-Prince. Although the kids live a couple miles from the ocean, most have never seen it. This, for me, was one of the most memorable moments in Haiti: watching them play in the water and cling to the 18 NAVMC volunteers that tried to keep some structure in the surrounding chaos. After returning to Renmen that night, we were blessed with a visit from Pere Noel (as he is known in Haiti). Each child received a gift donated by our supporters at home.
Thank-you for your support.
Happy New Year
Love, Bull Durham