Thursday, February 25, 2010

Orthopedic Surgeon Reflects on Haiti Experience

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, several LifeBridge Health employees have volunteered their time and services to earthquake victims. Among these are physicians Shawn Standard and Albert Aboulafia.

An orthopedic surgeon and co-director of sarcoma services at the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, Aboulafia traveled to Haiti from Feb. 3-7 to work with Project Medishare. Before he left, fellow orthopedic surgeon John Herzenberg sent over 50 pounds of donations that included soap and blankets.

An estimated 300,000 Haitians were injured in the 7.0 earthquake. Once Aboulafia arrived, there were roughly 140 adults and 65 children and adolescents in the Medishare tents who were awaiting treatment.

He worked at a breakneck pace, estimating that he performed 50 operations over a two-day period, including wound care, skin grafts, amputations and fracture realignments. When a severe wound is left untreated, infection can develop, leaving no choice but to amputate.

“I think we did a lot of good,” he says. “There, you could really make an impact. Would I fix a fracture different in Baltimore? Yes. But there were no lab tests, no blood. We did the best possible care that we could under the circumstances.”

One patient who sticks in his mind is a 90-year-old woman with a femur fracture.

“She understood the risks of surgery, and we were able to help her,” he says. “She had a place to go home to, and we were able to get her thigh fixed, put her into a wheelchair, and send her with relatives to go home.”

Aboulafia said he was lucky to have physical therapists, nurses, physician assistants, and volunteers who were dedicated to helping treat patients.

“Lots of times it was the people who were very much out of their element who excelled,” he says. “It was a tense and emotional time, but you saw a lot of people who were at their best.”

He hopes to return soon. To learn more about Project Medishare, click here.

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