Haiti Surgical Mission: Green Bay surgical team performs 45 surgeries in 3 days (Part 2)

Haiti Surgical Mission: Green Bay surgical team performs 45 surgeries in 3 days (Part 2)

March 15, 2010

by Michael Cerkas

As anyone who has had surgery will attest, it is always done after other alternatives are considered, and it is not something you typically look forward to experiencing.  In the right situation, however, it is something that you know is necessary and will improve the quality of your life.

The real wake up call regarding this subject is the context of the situation for the people of Haiti.  Citizens and health care recipients of established, developed and capitalist nations, such as the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and many others, have become conditioned to expect quality health care using advanced technology, when they need it.

As a citizen of a third world country, such as Haiti, basic medical care, much less surgery, is anexception to daily life, is considered a luxury and as such, Haitians have learned to live, perhaps better stated, survive,  mainly without advanced medical care.  That is not to say it is unneeded or completely unavailable, rather, more accurately, the people of Haiti have simply accepted its absence as their way of life.  This fact, as an understatement, illustrates a radically different existence and subsequent frame of mind, for the majority of people in Haiti.

This mind set needs to be understood by anyone traveling to Haiti, to be bettter able to relate to people who live their lives largely governed and controlled by an absence of choice regarding their personal well-being and health.  To see the world through another person’s eyes; to feel their everyday life and struggles, is to recognize and appreciate the vast difference in quality of life and standard of living that a mere 700 mile distance from Miami, Florida and the United States, can make. As all things are relative, so it also is in this situation.

Equipped with compassion, surgical skills and expertise, the group from Green Bay, Wisconsin, offered their hands and hearts to help, and in some small way, heal a people and nation, rich with dignity and pride, yet primarily deficient of any major infrastrcture for health care.

The majority of the surgeries performed were classified into three categories; hysterectomies,benign or fatty tumors, and hydroceles.  These three groups represented 34 of the 45 procedures.  The remaining 11 surgeries included baby delivery,amputation, hand trauma, circumcision and tubal ligation.   A recurring challenge during all three days of surgery was power loss.  This nuisance, unpredicted and usually of brief duration, affected light and power to instruments and equipment.  The power losses were remedied by a supply of flashlights in each operating room, headlamps for the surgeons, and preparation by the surgical team.

This overall preparation, combined with operational execution, offset any risk that was introduced by power loss, to each surgical procedure and more importantly, each patient..  Other obstacles encountered included limited inventories of instruments and equipment, along with occasional language barriers.  Once again, proper planning, combined with experienced, skillful and determined staff, provided smooth execution and efficient turnover of cases, all resulting in optimal patient care and safety, the paramount goal.

The surgical team’s blog provided the means to communicate daily events, thoughts of the staff, and pictures.  Undeniably, there were a few light-hearted moments that served to diffuse stress during surgery.  These moments also effectively elevated teamwork, enhanced focus and ensured successful outcomes.  A constant atmosphere of compassion, competency and professionalism, was abundantly demonstrated and evident throughout the entire surgical mission.  The patients were treated and cared for like the precious gems of life they represent.  To a person on the surgical team, each left with a changed perspective, a clearer understanding, and a deeper appreciation for the people of Haiti, the dilemmas facing each of their lives every day, and the hope for a better, healthier future.

Part 3 of this series will focus on the local people in the village area surrounding the Double Harvest Clinic.  A portrait of daily life, living conditions and the strength of a people recovering, yet struggling to survive, will be presented.  For related information, follow the links below:

Haiti Surgical Mission: Dedicated Green Bay surgical team overshadows lack of technology (Part 1)

Haiti Earthquake: Technology enhances awareness and help – also magnifies poverty

For reference, below is an animated summary describing how a hysterectomy is performed:

  1. Just wondering where you did the surgeries, what hospital?


    • James, The surgeries were performed @ Double Harvest Medical/Surgical Clinic, about eight miles east of Port Au Prince. If you read Part 1 of the Series I authored, the specifics regarding logistics are in the first paragraph…

      As an understatement, it was a life-changing experience for me. Thank you for taking the time to read and post the inquiry. Be well.


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