"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you
who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve" Albert Schweitzer

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mike Suszter, Ortho Resident Trip Report

Mike Suszter is a senior Orthopaedic Surgery Resident in Riverside, California and recently returned from a volunteer trip to Haiti. 
One day in September I was contacted by my residency director, Dr. Wade Faerber, and asked if I would like to join him in Haiti with Dr. Scott Nelson. Being familiar with Dr. Nelson and having heard about previous trips to Haiti I jumped at the opportunity, brushed up on my French, and expedited a new passport. 
In the weeks prior to the trip I was filled with nervous excitement and was not sure what to expect. I had what seemed to be a million questions. What would the country be like? How had Haiti rebounded from the earthquake? What kind of food would there be? The days before the trip I found myself frantically packing and trying to anticipate every need (bug spray, surgical attire, snacks, and of course extra batteries for the camera).

Upon arriving in Haiti I was welcomed with 95 degree heat and 90% humidity. We were then picked up and escorted to the hospital. On the way from the airport I had my first exposure to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian people, and culture. The city was alive with people similar to worker bees around a honey hive. The sights, sounds, and smells were unbelievable. The city was alive with millions of people all working hard to help each other. Whether it was selling fruit at the market or filling tires at the side of the road everyone was busy and working hard…which was a small amount of foreshadowing for my week. 

Upon arrival to the hospital, we were greeted by numerous volunteers from all around the world. Each brought a special gift/talent to the hospital and the Haitian people. At a hospital one would expect nurses, doctors, and prosthetists to be among the volunteers, which there were many, but in addition there were physical therapists, architects, electricians, medical students, and theology students. It was amazing to learn about the many projects and experiences all these volunteers had to share. 

After we claimed our sleeping quarters, our group was eager to go out and experience Haiti. On a hike, led by Dr. Nelson, we trekked through the small villages and mountains of Haiti. Being out of shape I certainly struggled up and down the mountains, but once to the top we were all re-energized at the beautiful sites that overwhelmed our optic nerves. Who would have thought that a country so devastated by natural disaster 2 years ago would be so peaceful and beautiful? 

The following 6 days were mainly work days at the hospital. We started off with a clinic day where we saw an amazing array of patients. There were patients with untreated injuries from the earthquake, congenital disorders, acute injuries, and infections. As our Creole/French was not very impressive, we worked hand in hand with several local Haitians who acted as our translators/cast techs. I was very impressed with their work ethic, compassion, and casting capabilities. I was also surprised at the immense amount of technology that had been obtained by the hospital since the earthquake. Heck, the portable x-ray machine was far better that the ones we have at our institution. 
Throughout or clinic day we amassed an entire week’s worth of surgery. As to not bore you with all the surgical details, we worked tirelessly for 4 straight days in the OR to help as many people as possible. Our surgical case list was quite varied, from spine fractures to limb alignment surgeries. Working with Drs. Nelson and Faerber was fun, educational, and……..well one of the greatest surgical experiences ever!!!!! One of the most memorable moments came after we had done a surgery on a young girl with Blounts Disease (bow legs). After surgery we wheeled her out to the recovery room and found her mom, who immediately started crying (tears of joy) and gave Dr. Nelson a giant hug of appreciation. That moment reminded me how much of an impact we can have on people’s lives. 
That week we did many surgeries (big and small) and made just a small scratch in the need for orthopedic care in Haiti. Throughout my trip I was amazed at the state of the art care that was being provided in a small 18 bed hospital in the middle of a third world country. It re-energized me, encouraged me, and exposed me to medicine in the third world. 
After 7 days it was finally time for us to return home and upon getting back to my house I emptied my suitcase and did a survey of the things I had brought back with me: 
     1. 2 metal fish ornaments 
     2. 10 bug bites 
     3. 700 pictures 
     4. About 15 new friendships 
     5. A million stories 
     6. Most importantly a desire to volunteer my time in the future to this and other 
         volunteer programs around the world
L to R: Mike Suszter, Wade Faerber, Scott Nelson, Francel Alexis
In the coming months I may forget the French that I brushed up on but I will never forget the amazing pride and friendliness of the Haitian people and drive of the volunteers/employees at the hospital and can hardly wait for the next trip. 
I would like to thank LLUMC, Dr. Nelson, Dr. Faerber, and all my patients for allowing me the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Operations Update From Hopital Adventiste

Dr Scott Nelson is returning home from another week at Hopital Adventiste.  In addition to the excerpt noted below, you can read the rest of his report on the CURE Caribe Blog.
Chaos, hard work, excitement and challenges usually eclipse my ability to write reports until the controlled rage of the GE turbines on the 757 pull me into my seat and I start assimilating my thoughts. We fluently lift off into the sky leaving behind a different world, looking down at shacks and rubble with a few new roofs decorating the landscape.
It was a week of mixed emotions. Terry and Jeannie Dietrich moved out on Wednesday to go back to Wisconsin. I felt a sense of defeatism and disappointment that we have not been able to inspire any surgeons to make a long term commitment towards the international orthopaedic program that has blossomed since the earthquake. It has enabled many talented surgeons to come down and effectively use their expertise to give a level of care to the Haitian people, that in some ways is beyond even that in the US. They both did an outstanding job of hosting this flourishing program. Amongst many of their contributions was the training of a couple of orthopaedic technicians – Jeanty and Jean Joel have been well trained to prepare the cases, assist in surgery, and maintain organization of the equipment.
Francel Alexis (far left in image above) is a recent graduate of the Haitian orthopaedic residency and is finishing a year long fellowship sponsored through Cure International. He is now at HAH and will hopefully stay there to help anchor down the orthopaedic program and provide follow up for our patients. His affable personality and motivation are real assets to the program.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The following post was written by Amy Lindsay and can be read in its entirety on the Beauty In The Mess blog.
Today was a sad day. A day of change and uncertainty as we said good-bye to Terry and Jeannie Dietrich. They served whole-heartedly for the year that they were here and it was great having them here. Now we will have to find a way to move on and continue the orthopedic program even without them. They will still be back for a few weeks here and there, but currently we don’t have a long-term replacement for Dr. Dietrich, which is disconcerting. There may be an orthopedic surgeon that might be able to come down, but as of right now there is a lot of unknowns about how it will all work.