An American Doctor In Haiti: A First Hand Account

by Chiara Atik · January 26, 2010

Micah Jesse has been doing his part to help the relief efforts for Haiti, by attending various benefits including 10ak's Haiti Benefit. His Dad, however, has taken heroism one step further, by traveling to Haiti through Flying Doctors Of America. Read his eye-opening first hand account below...-

Barry A Koffler is an Atlanta-based orthopedic surgeon (and Dad to Micah!), who left his private practice for a week to perform surgeries and amputations in Haiti. Below are excerpts from his emails home.

“the airport was utter chaos. military planes and personnel from every country and no organization. we flew in on a tiny, 1st class jet donated for the trip by some kind philanthropist from nashville who flew us in himself. waited a few hours to be picked up and then drove through the city to reach this mission.

the devastation is not describable.

the clinic had people brought in laying on the floor with broken legs, arms and amputations. a scene from mash.

within the first two hours of arrival i had reduced and casted 2 children one with a femur fracture and one with a tibia fracture. their pain was gut wrenching but after getting them immobilized, the smiles were just as equally as poignant. most of the injuries are crush injuries so i proceeded to cast an adult with bilateral femur fractures who was laying on the floor in agony with every twitch of her leg muscles.

we found a small table that i was able to move her to to reduce the fracture and to cast. no xray, no anesthesia. hopefully good technique and blessings from my maker. as i left the clinic there was a little boy on the floor with a high femur fracture. ideally should be treated with surgery but that will not happen here. was able to put him on the small table reduce the fracture and put him in a spica cast which is something i haven’t applied in greater than 30 years. a very rewarding day.

today the minister who runs the clinic has asked me to go to port au prince and possibly help with surgery. there are many amputees and a majority with infected stumps will do what i can in the short time i am here. i ran out of plaster yesterday before i ran out of strength. will have to hustle some more today but am told they will find me some.

this is one of those experiences that is beyond words. for a people with nothing the glass is half full for most. i have just been joined by other volunteers so will finish up this evening.”for a people with nothing the glass is half full for most. i have just been joined by other volunteers so will finish up this evening.”.

Dr.Koffler's observations are reminiscent of the accounts from doctors and nurses who volunteered during the Civil War, who similarly worked to amputate limbs and mend fractures without the benefits and comfort of modern medicine, or even anesthesia.

As you can see, Haiti is still in dire need of our help and attention. If you are able to do so, please Donate Today.