Dr. David Halpern - Volunteers in Haiti
Dr. David Halpern in his own words:
Initially when the earthquake occurred I knew a lot of people would need help and I voluteered to go down to Haiti to assist. Through Project Medishare run by Univ Miami Med School I was sequenced to go down from May 15-22nd as the Plastic/Hand Surgeon of that particular week. We were located at a field hospital/tent at the international airport. No air conditioning or marginal air conditioning and the conditions were extreme due to the heat (107 in the shade) and humidity (heat index 138) of the days.
Our goal was to help in any way possible and I felt my unique set of surgical skills (Plastic Surgery, Hand Center and Wound Center) and experience in large training hospitals would help me. Little did I know that it took every bit of strength, experience, and fortitude to complete my week in Haiti. Every day and every minute there were new challenges which we had to face and conquer. The access to real medical care is so sparse that the general population would come in with disease processes never seen in an advanced western society or hospital. We were treating acute trauma, typhoid fever, facial and hand/wrist/leg fractures, car accidents, burns, gun shot wounds, neglected large tumors of all sorts, congenital deformities such as cleft lip/palate, as well as secondary sequelae of injuries obtained during the earthquake.
More than 100 MD’s, RN’s, therapists, lab technicians, volunteers boarded a government charter flight to Haiti from Miami not really knowing what they would be in for. We all were challenged and rose to the occasion which was difficult but very rewarding. We had a mass trauma of 30 patients come to the field hospital the second day we were in Haiti where 20 US missionary kids (18-20 yrs old) were thrown from a dump truck which lost its brakes. Amazingly everyone survived but some had major injuries which had to be Medivac’d to Miami for definitive care. Overall I did over 100 surgical procedures in the 7 days I was in Haiti which is an astronomical number given the primitive conditions. The situation in Port Au Prince is still very desperate and there is still a great need for help at many levels. I look forward to returning to Haiti for another mission trip.