Shortly after his arrival in Haiti, Jeff Mjaanes, MD, an orthopedist at Rush, shared a few of the heartbreaking stories he and his colleagues were encountering around Port-au-Prince after the devastating earthquake.|
There was the pregnant woman who had lost her husband and two children in the earthquake. A 10-year-old whose parents and siblings perished when their house collapsed. An 11-month-old girl, her mother deceased, who was struggling with blood poisoning from an infected wound.
"It is so heart-wrenching to see this and be able to do so little. Although, I hope I am making at least a small contribution," he wrote in a Jan. 30 post on the Rush University Medical Center News Blog. "The scope of all this is so immense it is overwhelming."
Mjaanes, an adult and pediatric orthopedic expert, is one of 23 physicians and nurses from Rush who traveled to Haiti in January and February to help earthquake victims. The first medical team from Rush, which left Jan. 25, flew to the Dominican Republic and traveled by land to Haiti, where they worked at a variety of neighborhood clinics and hospitals in Port-au-Prince during their nine-day trip. They were lodged on the campus of a local elementary school that served as a medical coordination center. Two other Rush teams have since traveled to Haiti, and a fourth team is scheduled to head there later this month.
"The minute I found out what had happened in Haiti, I knew I had to go back home to help out," says internal medicine physician Myriame Casimir, MD, a native of Haiti who was among the first group. "I am lucky that my family back home was not harmed in the earthquake, but so many Haitians are in need. On a personal and professional level, I was determined to go back to Haiti."
The medical team members from Rush performed numerous surgeries, including revisions of amputations, and treated a great many patients suffering from fractures, wounds and infections — even heart failure and kidney failure. "It's like a scene from the Civil War," David Ansell, MD, chief medical officer at Rush, wrote of the scene at Haiti's General Hospital, where one team worked.
In addition to countless stories of desperation, the physicians from Rush said they were struck by both the extent of the devastation and the warmth of the Haitians whom they encountered and treated. "The people were incredibly gracious, incredibly appreciative of our help," says Keith Boyd, MD, associate chairperson of pediatrics at Rush.
Ansell described Haiti as a "devastated society" with problems that existed well before the earthquake and will undoubtedly linger. "What's needed down there is much more, and we just have to keep giving," he says. "There's a lot more that has to be done to help this country."
Mjaanes, in his final blog post upon returning to Rush, said that even though his trip was brief, it left an indelible impression: "The experience in Haiti has changed me forever, in ways I could not have imagined. Although filled with sad stories and tragedy, my time in Haiti renewed my faith in humanity and reignited the reasons I entered medicine in the first place."
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- For more first-person accounts by physicians at Rush of their experiences in Haiti, visit the Rush News Blog.
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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