Daemen athletic training, physical therapy, nursing, physician assistant, and pre-med students traveled with doctors from the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation on the organization’s second medical mission to Haiti.
More than 200,000 people perished January 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rattled the small Caribbean nation. Haitian residents are still coping with the aftereffects of the devastating 2010 quake.
In May, 2011, Daemen students traveled to Haiti with the Williamsville, New York, based Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, to provide surgical and other treatments to the impoverished city of Les Cayes, on the country’s southwest peninsula.
In May, 2013, doctors with the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, accompanied by Daemen health care students, returned to Haiti to deliver care to the residents of Les Cayes.
“Daemen’s reach is truly international,” said Daemen President Gary A. Olson.
“Daemen students and faculty, together with the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation provided much-needed medical care, including dozens of surgeries, that would otherwise have been beyond the reach of the patients examined by the team’s doctors.”
On the first day of the 2013 trip Daemen students witnessed an emergency Caesarian section: an infant was born with the tube wrapped around its neck, not breathing. Daemen nursing student and operation room nurse Amanda McDonald Kekich responded and began resuscitating the infant, under supervision from Dr. Robert Smolinski from University Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
After a 25 minute effort the baby suddenly began to breathe on its own. Doctors with the team felt the survival of the baby and the mother would have been very questionable, without the attending health care professionals present at the birth.
Also during their four days at Immaculate Conception Hospital, members of the health care team examined a young boy appearing to be in a lot of pain. Daemen nursing student Garin Smith discovered the reason was a malfunctioning IV, preventing delivery of pain medication to the boy. Smith and Daemen nursing students, assisting in reinserting an IV, then found the child had a broken leg, two broken wrists, and a dislocated elbow. Despite the seriousness of the injuries, the boy had not been able to get the proper surgeries.
University Orthopaedics doctors Robert Smolinski, Mark Anders, and Craig Blum, along with Daemen students, performed the needed surgeries – inserting a metal plate to set the broken leg, and setting both wrists and the elbow.
“One of the most valuable benefits for the students on a trip such as this is to have the opportunity to see the world as it really is,” noted Dr. Smolinski. “9.9 million of Haiti’s 10 million residents live in extreme poverty. This is what health care is like for much of the rest of the world.”
Dr. Jeffrey Meilman, Chairman of the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation and a member of the Daemen College Board of Trustees, has traveled the world providing free medical and surgical care to residents of Third World countries. The devastation that struck the segment of the Haitian population hit by the 2010 earthquake was particularly significant to him.
"I have been doing this in a lot of countries for the last 20, 22 years. I can tell you this is one of the most needy places,” he stated. To emphasize his point, Meilman noted that prior to the Foundation’s 2011 Mission to Haiti, Les Cayes had not seen a general surgeon for seven years.
“The hospital there serves a population of about 1 million. So this means there were no gall bladder surgeries, no tumor removals, orthopedic operations, nothing during that time. There is a great need for health care in Haiti, but practically none of their national budget is dedicated for this.”
Over a four day period the students observed, and with supervision, participated in surgeries including multiple fracture repairs and keloid scar removals. About 60 surgeries were performed over the time the group was in Les Cayes.