Project Medishare’s Pediatric Neurosurgical team continues work in Haiti despite challenges from January 12 earthquake
By Jennifer Browning
While Project Medishare is continuing earthquake relief efforts in Port-au-Prince, we are also keeping attention to our other various programs in Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau.
The Project Medishare Pediatric Neurosurgery Specialty program traveled last week from Miami to continue their work with children with hydrocephalus and myelomeningoceles.
Within hours of the team’s arrival, three other pediatric neurosurgery cases were admitted and/or transferred to the hospital.
“There is a clear need for continued care and our plan is to provide continuous neurosurgical coverage,” surgical team organizer Ann McNeil said. “Pediatric neurosurgery teams will be able to come and operate on a weekly basis as needed. For now the surgeons will come from the States, but we already have plans to train a local surgical resident and to work alongside the Haitian medical staff to provide training and education.”
Project Medishare has provided the in-country logistics for the pediatric neurosurgery trips twice a year since 2003. Since the earthquake, our organization’s collective efforts focus on the needs of those injured and displaced by the destruction. Many individual nurses and doctors, who had accompanied us on medical or surgical trips in the past, were the first to show up in Haiti to volunteer- in the operating rooms and on the wards of the Project Medishare and UM Global Institute field hospital.
Last week, the Haitian government marked February 12, as a national day of mourning for all those killed in the earthquake. Project Medishare and the UM Global Institute, in a strong partnership, continue necessary earthquake relief efforts in Port-au-Prince, but Project Medishare is also continuing support for other ongoing programs like the Community Health Program based in Thomonde and the Integrated Community Development Program in Marmont which are seeing a population growth from those migrating from Port-au-Prince.
The Pediatric Neurosurgical Specialty Team never changed their original plans, despite the challenges they would face from the destruction the earthquake left behind. The team saw children with neurosurgical problems including hydrocephalus, head injuries, brain tumors, and spine fractures.
“When presented with the option of providing care in Haiti or transporting the child to another country, we have always supported Project Medishare’s philosophy of treating the child in Haiti if feasible and safe,” McNeil said. “Why take a child and parent away from home and family. There is a high cost in dollars; there is a social and emotional cost.”
The team faced several challenges while they worked to continue their surgeries. While they found an Ultrasound available, the team discovered the CT scanners in Port-au-Prince were damaged in the earthquake which meant no useful imaging was available. Access to a CT scanner is necessary.
Two of the three children who were recovering from surgeries on Saturday had severe head injuries. Fortunately, with some skillful coordination, they were able to be transferred to the USS Comfort, a Navy medical ship, to have a CT scan, but such a delay can have devastating consequences.
“We are back in business caring for the children of Haiti, but we will have to continue to gather resources to build an effective and sustainable program,” McNeil said about her Pediatric Neurosurgery team. “I am proud to be a part of the team that makes it all possible. ”
Another specialty surgical trip scheduled in May. If you would like to donate to the Pediatric Neurosurgery Specialty Program in Port-au-Prince click here.