Blue Sky Surgical has had an amazing week. 19 individuals came together with their new Haitian family of health care providers to care for so many men, women and children in need. We completed our week of 64 surgeries and countless clinic evaluations and we have all changed from the experience in a positive way.
Let me share want a typical day looks like. for Blue Sky Surgical. For the DuPree family, it was a 5:45 wake up and out the door at 6 for a workout. We always paused to watch the sunrise as best part of the AM workout is being up to watch the spectacular event.
Dean is training for winter track Pennsylvania State Championships. <Last year they took silver in the distance medley relay and they are going back to run the same race again> Dean would alternate sprint workouts with plyometric exercises. . Hopefully Mr. Rodgers, his coach, will see this BLOG to realize his level of commitment. ( Mr. Rob Rodger’s sister is Deb our nurse anesthetist’s best friend!)
6:40 Morning Devotional
Every morning at 6:40 the locals would congregate at the clinic and there would be a speaker and singing. Although we could not always tell what they were saying, we could all feel the energy that came from their songs.
Breakfast was served at 7 AM. It was always an adventure and the best mornings were the ones where we cooked with the Haitian cooks. These women put such love into our food that nourished our hearts and so many carbohydrates into our diet that went right to our butts!
On Friday February 14 as we were all remembering to call and text our significant others, we celebrated the birthday of our Haitian interpreter and guide Pierre.
By 730 we were headed down the stairs to the clinic or to the OR begin our day of surgery.
Tony and I would alternate between the OR and the clinic. Shashi just kept operating all day long.
- The nurses would prep the patients in the PACU( post anesthesia care unit) and we were off to our day of surgery. They would prepare the patients with IV’s and fluids, check the charts and keep the schedule moving. They were priceless.
The Logistics guys were everywhere and anywhere they needed to be. They cleaned sterilized instruments. The packaged the appropriate insturments we needed for our cases. The moved the patients from the OR to the PACU. TRANSPORTATION was key. They cleaned the floors and when they weren’t doing that they were making a birthday candle for Pierre’s birthday cake! With Cal as their leader, they were a finely oiled machine. One of Cal’s favorite activities of the day was spending time with the locals.
Shashi had room #2 as his room and we tried to get the little children taken care of first so that they did not have to wait all day without eating and drinking. There was one small child, no more than 2 years old who had a hernia repair on our last day. When I came out between cases, I saw him asleep in what I thought was his mother’s arms.
Yvon then told me that it was his sister holding him as they both slept.
Yvon shared their story. Their mother had died this past September. My heart gasped and my eyes filled with tears as I looked at them nestled in the chair. She was so protective of her little brother. Their father and the oldest daughter, unfortunately without their mother, were raising these 10 children.
Her eyes speak volumes
Every single person we cared for had a story and I learned each and every one of their stories that I could!
We had both OR’s running all day long and Tony spent this morning in clinic adding on cases were the children were NPO. (remember nothing by mouth after midnight). My room had completed 5 cases by 11:30 and Shashi was on his 5th case as well.
My 5th case today was a simple lipoma, benign tumor of fat, on a gentleman’s forehead. The gentleman spoke minimal English and required Manny to translate during the beginning of anesthesia.
During induction of anesthesia , after the entire syringe of Propofol ( medicine that gives you amnesia and puts you to sleep very quickly) we had an amazing experience. The patient looked at Deb, the nurse anesthetist, and said to us in perfect English “ Jesus is in the room ” We were all taken aback. He then said “The Lord our Shepard is watching over us”. I had goose bumps, as did our entire team. We were in a state of disbelief as his English was flawless, his message profound, and he had enough of the medicine in his system to put him to sleep quickly. Dr. Sauter thought that we made up the story, but as you may be aware truth is often stranger than fiction.
He asked for the name s of all of our team so that he could pray for us daily! WE SAID YES!
After this case, I went to clinic with our nurse Beth to see Marjorie the 39 year old mother of 5 children who had had modified radical mastectomy three
days earlier. She came to the clinic with her husband to have her drains removed. She brought her youngest son Darius with her. I looked at this child and quickly realized that she had gotten pregnant almost immediately after her lumpectomy in Feb of 2012. So not only did she not have the opportunity to have chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she had an estrogen storm from her pregnancy. Beth was there to hold her hand as I removed the drains and she saw her chest wall without her breast for the first time. It saddened me that I did not have a post surgical bra and prosthesis for her at this moment as she would have to wait until I can send them back to her in the appropriate size. She did very well with this visit despite the realization that her breast was gone.
I hugged her goodbye until next year and made arrangements for her to return to see Dr. Peter and continue to take her Tamoxifen. I returned to the OR and was quickly summoned to go out to the street and meet her 5 children who she had brought along to meet me. She wanted me to know why she had to be OK.
Her children needed her and the surgery we performed and the Tamoxifen that was donated by Holy Redeemer are the one shot that she has. So Dr. Tony’s intervention two years ago and his insistence of continuity of care and his follow through with pathology and getting her back for follow up were instrumental in her getting her to us to perform her surgery.
I left this beautiful 39 year-old woman to operate on my 93-year-old gentleman who too had breast cancer. They were of the extremes in age and sex but both had breast cancer. This gentle soul has high blood pressure, and no funds to buy the medications to lower it. Dr. Sauter saw him on Tuesday and Dr. Peter gave him the medication to take for a few days to optimize him for surgery.
He was clearly our highest risk patient of the week, but he clearly had angels as he walked out to the “bus stop” just 2 hours after his lumpectomy. What we were able to do for him was to remove the tumor so it would not erode through his skin and stop the pain he was having from its connection to his chest wall muscle. One patient at a time we were making a difference.
Dr. Shashi and Tony were busy repairing children’s hernias. The faces of those we cared for were priceless and all we needed to know that we are doing God’s work. Having a pediatric surgeon along was a gift for the Haitian’s that Tony was able to provide. On our last trip we performed 17 pediatric cases, therefore we knew there was a need. Shashi rocks!
We closed up the OR with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and some sadness for leaving Haiti. We all shared a sense of peace as we had found a new home for Blue Sky Surgical TEAM.Under Dr. Anthony Coletta’s leadership, I an certain that we will continue to change lives one at a time. Not only is Tony changing healthcare in America, he is changing health care globally.
The members from Holy Redeemer ( missing from this picture are Randie Oberlander, Joe Benonis, Mike Laign and all of the other individuals who helped make our trip happen.
Mainline Health System ( missing are all of those individuals that donated the time and materials form Lankenau and Bryn Mawr Hospitals as well as United Anesthesia Services)
We found out an amazing synchronicity on the last day. Shashi had actually performed a hernia surgery on Craig when he was six!
Our workday was done and we joined each other on the roof, aka our Haitian beach, to laugh, share stories and just be! Manny and I made homemade chips with my left over corn tortillas and we a version of happy hour on the roof.
Our final dinner was a absolute feast. I was a fly on the wall watching as they lovingly prepared our dinner. The cooks out did them selves with Haitian meatballs, fried chicken, rice and beans (who knew there was garlic and cloves in there!), picklees (shredded cabbage and a lot of spice), Haitian macaroni and cheese, fried okra and fried bread fruit that tastes like a warm Philadelphia pretzels.
We retired to the roof to watch the sunset as others packed for our return to the USA.
We had our final evening 7 PM meeting where we shared stories of the day, concerns for the next day in the OR and our last evening we shared hope for the future of our work at Double Harvest.
We talked to Dr. Peter Pierrot and Henry Peters, the missionary, who is one of the caretakers of the facility. We thanked Henry for giving us the insiders’ tour of Double Harvest including the Tilapia fish runways, The Hydroponic farming, the chickens for eating and laying eggs. (Deb didn’t know that they had different function)
Tony talked about how proud of his TEAM of 19 ( he forgot to count himself) and how well we performed. This week, John taught us the term Shibumi, which means seamless perfection. It takes Shibumi to take 19 individuals who haven’t worked together in the OR and perform 64 surgeries in 5 days, without any complications. Under the leadership of Dr. Tony we all had something to be proud of. We laughed, we teared up and mostly we were filled with the joy in knowing that we had made a difference in so many lives.
We talked about our future trips and having so many young TEAM members gives HOPE to Haiti.