Friday, February 26, 2010

Help for Haiti

This past Tuesday, my sister left on a medical mission to Haiti. She is the one who is an ER nurse.

She arrived at the St. Damien's Hospital for Children and pitched her tent on the roof of the guest house. She has described difficult conditions and the valiant efforts to bring some order to the chaos. She has assisted a surgical team, started IV's and helped out in the adult clinic. Yesterday, she helped bury the bodies of 40 children and adults with Father Rick from St. Damien's.

As a result of the earthquake, there were many traumatic injuries resulting in broken bones and amputations. Father Rick describes the situation in a letter to Operation USA.

"After weeks of frenetic activity, we are returning to a state of equilibrium. Our hospital had become a trauma MASH unit, as had all other medical centers in Port au Prince that are still standing. We were able to offer about 30 surgeries a day at four sites (two in our hospital, one on our hospital grounds in a tent, and one at the St. Camillus Hospital, which we staffed for the emergency.) Many of these, sadly, were amputations – sometimes two for the same adult or child. 

To give an idea of the size of the problem, it is likely there are about 20,000 people now who have been amputated or who have orthopedic hardware screwed through their skin to the bone. Port au Prince has about 20 Haitian orthopedic surgeons, and visiting teams to Haiti will soon leave. All 20,000 need to be followed closely for removal of hardware, control of infection, reevaluation of the amputation, and of course for artificial limbs and rehabilitation. Obviously 20 surgeons will not be able to handle this load. We have worked closely with the St. Camillus Hospital so as to return our St. Damien Hospital to a pediatric center and to have a growing center for adults at St. Camillus. We hope together to be able to keep good tabs on the patients we have operated on, and hope to be able to provide well for them in the future. 


I watched a few videos about St. Damien's. The level of poverty and hardship, even before the earthquake, was stunning. It is evident that Haiti's recovery from the earthquake will be difficult and require a lot of continued outside assistance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

National Sales Meeting or Pneumonia?

I apparently chose pneumonia.

I thought it was the flu. When I could not get out of bed long enough to pack my bags for my trip to Orlando for Linvatec's National Sales Meeting, I had to cancel my flight.

Two days later, despite lots of Gatorade and Tylenol, I spent most of Saturday knotted in a fetal position on my couch, feverish and sweating. My sister, who is a nurse in the emergency department of Denver's level one trauma hospital, checked in on me throughout the day while she was working. I texted details of my symptoms to her and she consulted with her colleagues.

Finally, she called and said, "You've done everything you can for yourself. I don't think it's unreasonable for you to go to the emergency room." I didn't want to, but I had to admit I wasn't getting any better after 3 days. Probably worse.

When I arrived at the local hospital, the nurse in triage asked me a series of questions and took my pulse. It was the same hospital that Raquel and I had visited last summer, in fact. As I drooped in my chair, the nurse called back to the ER. I heard her tell someone I was tachycardic and she deemed me a "yellow".

Tacychardia was one of the new medical terms I picked up while at the hospital. It meant my heart was racing; in my case, at about 130 beats per minute.

In short order, she escorted me down the hall and coaxed me toward a wheelchair. "It's no trouble, really," she said. Pride was rather useless at that point, so I sank into the chair. She whisked me back to a room in the ER, where a doctor and nurse teamed up to evaluate my condition.

Some questions, tests and an x-ray or two later, they told me I had pneumonia. I was also told that my white blood count was through the roof.

The doctor showed me a cloudy mass in my right lung on the x-ray. "That should not be there," she said. "You are not exactly circling the drain, but my nurse tells me he thinks you are looking rather puny. I don't contradict my staff. I think we should at least keep you overnight for observation."

The staff doctor who came to visit me next was more stern. "You have raging pneumonia in your right lung. Expect to be here for several days."

I was just relieved to know the cause of my suffering.

After the doctors left, I laid there, quiet and exhausted, as the nurse began to rehydrate me through an IV and dose me with antibiotics. I was fortunate to have several great nurses looking over me that night.

By the next morning, I was not completely well, of course. However, I was amazed at how much better I felt than the night before. I had arrived at the hospital sick, miserable and rather frightened. Twelve hours later, I was relatively comfortable and on the mend. The turnaround was pretty miraculous.

I am truly grateful, for my return to health and for the great care I received while I was at the hospital. The staff throughout my stay was terrific in every way.

I sometimes interview people who are motivated to get into healthcare sales, because they or one of their loved ones have received great care through a trying illness or injury. My own appreciation for the great things that our healthcare providers do has grown immensely as a result of my own experience.