Women and men of the knife

So this is maybe not the best title, but what else can I call the docs, nurses and other professionals who are here to do surgery? We have to use something sharp…

First evening at Ortlip before traveling to island
First evening at Ortlip before traveling to island
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Sunset at Ortlip with the island of LaGonave in the distance

Almost everyone on our two teams has been here before – from New Brunswick come some of the surgeons and family docs, OR and ICU nurses, a pharmacist and a lab tech; from Ontario an anaesthetist and general surgeon, ER and OR nurses, and a very useful son! Only 3 people of the 20 are newcomers to Haiti.

Similar Haitian boat to the Wesleyana which carried us to the island
Similar Haitian boat to the Wesleyana which carried us to the island
Patti, Aileen and Sophie in the OR
Patti, Aileen and Sophie in the OR (2 veterans and one newcomer…)

In our team the three surgeons, Peter (urology), Chris (obgyn) and Ravi (general surgery) are wonderful folks I’ve worked with before on these trips, and Ravi is a good bud with whom I had worked for many years in New Brunswick before we moved to different places in Ontario. His son Aneal was up to my knees when I first met him, but now stands taller than me and shows me his rear tire when we dirt bike together! He’s a great kid, like his older brother Avi who was on a trip here with us 3 years ago. Aileen is our enthusiastic organizer, an OR nurse from Fredericton who has come to understand the Haitian way very well – without her knowledge and connections here we wouldn’t be able to work effectively. Already much time is spent just getting around and managing the most basic logistics and without smoothing out these aspects of the trip we’d be spinning our wheels most of the time instead of doing surgery. Patti and Laura (mom and daughter) are friends foremost and excellent nurses as well. I first met them in Petit Goave weeks after the earthquake and was astonished to find I would be working with them 4 years later when I took a job in Ontario! Heather is an ICU nurse from Fredericton who was with the first of our two teams and who chose to stay on for the second stint with us. She is unflappable and she and Laura run a very safe and tight recovery room (along with any other odd job we can think of giving them!). Finally my good friend Mike, who practiced anaesthesia with me for over 10 years, had decided to join us at the last minute to “pass gas” with me, and with that addition the reunion of our first team to Haiti in 2010 was complete – then the first trip for all of us and the seed that led to the following 6 years of work in Haiti – introducing many people and teams to LaGonave and other areas and producing a strong cadre of volunteers that will fill many teams to come.

What we share in common is is the ability to roll with things, to improvise, and to deal with heat and constant sweat (and not fuss when the internet dies!). Everyone can come up with creative solutions, and jump into the jobs they aren’t trained for but are just now needed for. Its an energizing way to work.

Not only are day to day problems discussed (which anaesthetic technique, surgery now our later, how to manage without that necessary piece of equipment…) but big thinking is done about the future as well. For example, in my sphere one of the big issues is the lack of functioning anaesthetic machines. We are starting to network and brainstorm to get for this hospital a British made anaesthetic machine that is designed for “austere environments” – safe, simple, durable, easy to maintain, and equally important – inexpensive.

Together we remember some of our shared stories, and together we will create new ones.

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Author: gasman5

I practice anaesthesia in Ontario. I love travel and photography. These trips allow me to combine my work and some of my passions, but end up meaning so much more than that. Medical missions are a chance to give something back - we are fortunate in where we were born and it is only by this luck that my colleagues and I can travel and use our skills in the operating room in places where medical and surgical care is very hard to come by. Thanks to my awesome family for encouraging me in these ventures.

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