Deciding To Go To Haiti February 14, 2015

Deciding To Go To Haiti

Shortly after the earthquake struck, we were contacted by Partners in Health, which is the disaster response team from the Massachusetts General Hospital. They requested that we put a team together, covering all potential specialties which might be helpful in Haiti.  They were running 8 or 9 fully equipped hospitals in Port au Prince and the surrounding area.


Canadian Army Assistance
Canadian Army personnel help with medical supplies to be used in the Haiti earthquake relief effort. (Courtesy of Dr. Paul Burke)

A team was quickly assembled, documents obtained, and immunizations updated.  We were offered the services of a private jet by Johnson and Johnson (the hosptials use a great deal of their orthopedic products). Michael and Frannie Demoulas Kettenbach (lifelong dear friends of mine) got wind of our efforts, and generously put together almost a half ton of food supplies courtesy of Market Basket.

We were on the launchpad with engines running. Then, we were notified we were on delay. It turns out that the number
of teams put together through the Mass General effort far exceeded the capacity of their clinics. We were incredibly disappointed. One of the earlier teams had written to us all that Matt Damon had been tremendously helpful in facilitating their trip, supplying transportation and lodging.  His generosity was deeply appreciated by the team.

Matt's father Kent is a friend of mine.  I called him to see if Matt could assist us in any way to get our departure moved up.  He was initially unable to reach him as he was travelling in Europe.  However, when he did reach him, Matt made a concerted effort, but to no avail. The clinics were simply overstaffed. My concern was that we were all in private practice, or worked at the local hospitals.

It is not as easy for us to arrange time off or coverage as it would be in an in town medical center.  I was afraid all of our work would be in vain, and our effort would fail before getting off the ground. After a brief period of deflation, I made a call to the American College of Surgeon, asking if they could use our team anywhere.  When described the makeup of our team, they were quite excited (I'll outline that for you).  They promptly put us in touch with a group on the ground, and actually gave us a sat phone number with which we could directly communicate with the team currently working.  They were exhausted, and wanted us there yesterday. We now had two days to arrange everything. Unfortunately, without MGH Partners in Health support, the financial burden would be on each member of the team. Both Saints Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital were quick to
step forward and offer medical supplies.

As you know, Michael and Franny Kettenbach, as well as the entire Demoulas family have been incredibly charitable through the years, mostly in a quiet, under the radar manner.  When Michael and Franny got wind of the change in our status, they generously offered to underwrite our efforts.

We are scheduled to leave Logan tomorrow at 6 AM, stopping briefly in the Dominican Republic.  From there we will be on a charter to Jacmel Haiti. As opposed to our initial plan with the MGH, staffing fully equipped hospitals, this would essentially be working in the field.  We will be staying in tents, on the grounds of a convent.  Apparently the nuns will cook and care for us.  I understand they even sing !  (Sound of Music without the Alps)  The Canadian army will be surrounding the perimeter.  We will be going out to the field every day, working with Cuban doctors.The team as it currently exists:

Deann Valliere, LPN, Operating Room Scrub Tech Saints Medical Center, 10 years experience in pediatrics

Suzanne Forte, RN, Emergency Room Lowell General, Multiple trips on charitable health care relief efforts to 3rd world nations

Gary Loudermilk, RN, Emergency Room Lowell General, Wilderness survival expert, ER nurse

Natasha Rousseau, Center for Wound Healing, Lowell General Hospital, Wound care expert, nature photographer, frequently travels to tropics

Peter Roman, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Saints and LGH Wilderness Survival Physician

Paul Burke, MD, Vascular Surgery, Lowell General Hospital and Saints Medical Center

Bill Fennell, Ortho Tech, Lowell General Hospital

Marie Dupic-Washburn, MD, Fast track, Triage physician Saints Medical Center

Vijay Kumar, MD, Chairman, Dept. of Anesthesia Lowell General Hospital