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Mission provides care, hope to Haitians

Editor’s note: From Jan. 15 to Jan. 23, MUSC pediatric orthopaedist Frederick “Rick” Reed, M.D., was part of a five-member team of physicians, emergency medical technicians and a water engineer to provide support to victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. The trip was supported by The Refuge of Hilton Head and Hopital Lumiere through Dr. Robert Belding of Columbia. The following are Reed's reflections.
One week in late January I was supposed to be spending an easy, relaxing time of cross country skiing at Glacier National Park. Instead, I spent nine exhausting days as part of a five-person team providing urgent medical care in Haiti as we tried to save the arms and legs of victims crushed by falling debris.
Our response came quickly after news about the 7.0 earthquake that devastated areas of the west side of Hispaniola, especially around the quake’s epicenter near Port-au-Prince, the island’s capital.
I had taken part in several medical mission trips working in Leogonne, Jacmel and Port-au-Prince in the past. These three cities formed a triangle framing the epicenter of the earthquake, and I learned from colleagues that all three sites were destroyed.  I contacted orthopaedist Robert Belding, M.D., of Columbia, as soon as I heard a seat opened up on a prior arranged flight out of Hilton Head. Water Missions International facilitated this flight with a team carrying their water project volunteer, Aaron Stephens. They originally needed only one physician, but with two emergency medical technicians, Mike Petrillo and Adam Kurtz, the ideal-sized group was achieved. Supplies were received from Carolina Orthotics, Floyd Brace and area hospitals in Columbia, Hilton Head and Charleston.
This is the rural landscape MUSC volunteers encountered on their travels. To donate to the Department of Orthopaedics for future relief efforts, contact 792-2677 or visit Click on make a gift, then College of Medicine. The designation site is in the pull down box titled Orthopaedic Disaster Training Fund.

It was challenging to get to our destination, but we arrived safely at the village of Bonne Fin, about a seven-hour drive south of Port-au-Prince. Fortunately, this area of the island was structurally unaffected by the earthquake, and was one of few hospitals available to treat patients, especially earthquake victims who desperately sought medical attention away from the demolished, crowded capital.
Upon our arrival, we were constantly challenged in caring for patients suffering from days-old open fractures and wounds, crushed limbs and severe dehydration. The smell of death and wails from suffering people surrounded us daily. However, we remained focused and gave whatever care was needed, providing brief exams, splinting limbs, and doing casts and amputations and other triage for future surgery.
Pain medications, antibiotics and other needed drugs, bandages and casting supplies were rapidly exhausted, but quickly replenished by physicians at Cite Lumiere where the team had visited on the way to Hopital Lumiere. 
Bringing hope to Haitians are: Dr. Rick Reed, from left, Les Cayes, Robert Belding, Mike Petrillo, Adam Kurtz, John Vrooman and Aaron Stephens.

We felt that although the help we provided in a little more than a week was valuable and lifesaving, our efforts were only the beginning of a much needed, collaborative assistance. I believe there should be more collaboration between worldwide relief organizations, such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, and local medical personnel and established missionary programs in the smaller communities in this impoverished country. Grass roots efforts are needed to rebuild a fragmented health  care delivery system that is plagued by limited education and corruption.
At times it was too late to save limbs, but not too late to give Haitians the medical care  needed. There still is much work to be done, but the trip showed the success of  how disaster relief efforts can be administered successfully in small, rural areas like Bonne Fin and Hopital Lumiere. These locations could network as receiving hospitals for Haitians requiring acute medical care. Not surprising to me and the team  was the  every day examples of courage  and human resilience shown by the Haitian people, especially in the wake of death  and disaster. Despite all the tragedy, the Haitians are amazing people.

Friday, Feb. 12, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.