“Ah dear reader, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Dear ‘le docteur Max,’ permit me to share a few memories and reminisce of my recent trip to south Haiti of but a few days ago. As you know, I journeyed with a team of urology folk from the University of Iowa, headed by the Chairman of Urology from that hallowed institution, Dr. Richard Williams. I was honored to again provide the anesthesia services for this team of urologists which included Dr. Williams, an attending urologist, two chief residents, a medical student, a surgical tech/translator, and a nursing student. Since this was the 6th trip for myself to Bonne Finne and the Hopital Lumiere, I always enjoy viewing Haiti vicariously from the eyes of a newcomer to south Haiti, and this was provided to me by the presence of Brittney, who was our youngest newcomer on this trip of healing and adventure.
Again, dear reader, let me digress but a moment to thank Dr. Max for his kind gift of a case of epidural needles/catheters, and various other supplies for our mission to the land of Hispanola. Also, his kindness in allowing me to have the past 10 days away from his plastic surgery office practice, so that I might not miss providing anethesia for all of his fine, cosmetic surgery patients. “Merci-boucou!” Dr. Max to you and yours from myself, Dr. Williams and his team, and the poor but grateful folks from Bonne Finne, south Haiti. Your generosity allowed me to avoid having to ‘put to sleep’ anyone except a tiny infant, during our whole time at Hopital Lumiere. As you would perhaps know, general anesthesia is usually something to be avoided in the ‘3rd world’, as we have no access to ventilators, and the lack of post anesthesia care is almost guaranteed. Epidural anesthesia was my main choice of technique since lack of equipment and supplies almost always assured us that our operations would be extended to twice their normal time span, compared to stateside facilities. Your kind generosity allowed me to provide anesthesia to these very needy patients for all of our cases except for an eight week old infant, who required me to put him to sleep. Fortunately, the good Lord was with all of our team, and I am pleased to report young ‘Emile’ received a wonderful surgical result, and will be allowed now to grow and hopefully thrive with his new “waterworks” provided by you, Dr. Williams and the team.
It would overwhelm me to attempt to relay to you even a small percent of our adventures there in south Haiti, but allow me to assure you that almost every and any type of tropical disease and/or pathology presents itself sooner of later to the practitioner at Port au Prince or Bonne Finne. Malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, venereal diseases, parasites, sickle cell, etc., etc., are all common maladies to these folks in their everyday existence. Kidney stones of 3-4 cms. are not uncommon, as are prostate glands of over 300 grams. The American surgical concept of “picking the fruit early” is unfortunately not able to be practiced in the 3rd world, and huge presentations of pathology are quiet routine and common. The residents and students are always amazed and usually awed by all of the variety of tropical medicine they are able to see and treat on a daily basis in Haiti. My colleague and best missionary friend, Dr. Gary Barker, is one of only a few American doctors to have ever seen an actual case of small pox in a human patient. All this is coupled with the lack of sophisticated equipment and laboratory analysis, alas, even the supply of electicity and running cold water is never a guanantee at Hopital Lumiere, hence my heart goes out to these kind and gentle medical folk who persist in living and working within such prmitive and unhealthy conditions.
The up side, and the thing that keeps allowing us to go back to these mission fields though, is the realization that we are helping in a small way to improve these peoples lives, and that “the only way to eat an elephant, is one small bite at a time.” I will close this brief tome now with the hope that I will be able to relate to you next years’ adventures at the ‘ol Hopital Lumiere. The need will continue to be there, and we hope that our team will be able to return again to this land of beautiful sunsets, palm trees, and beautiful people. Thanks again Max and Pam for your help, your prayers and your kind support…more as the saga continues to unfold.