Local doctors were on the front lines in HaitiBased on the images he saw on television and the news he heard through friends and colleagues, Daren Wickum thought he had an idea of what was in store for him when he made the decision to fly with a team of local doctors to Haiti last month.
Based on the images he saw on television and the news he heard through friends and colleagues, Daren Wickum thought he had an idea of what was in store for him when he made the decision to fly with a team of local doctors to Haiti last month.
But when he finally arrived at St. Damien Hospital about a week after a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation Jan. 12, there was only one way the orthopedic surgeon could describe the scene: complete shock.
Hundreds of people lined up and camped out in the hallways and outside of the pediatric hospital waiting for their turn to have some very serious wounds treated.
Wickum, who works for Summit Orthopedics, which has a clinic in Woodbury, made the trip with a medical team that included his wife Jessica, a registered nurse.
The week-long trip included 20-hour workdays and required Wickum and fellow medical staff on site to adapt quickly to the technology that was available, which wasn’t much. Hacksaws and mild pain medication were often used in tandem.
“With Western medicine you always have three or four opinions before you make a decision,” Wickum said. “Down there, the Haitian people we treated didn’t care about the details, they just want you to help.”
Help meant a wide range of treatments for children and adults including amputation of seriously wounded limbs, fitting of basic walking braces, and making house calls to area residents who were too sick or injured to make it to the hospital.
“I think the feeling a lot of people who came down there to help was ‘Where do we even start?” said Dr. Michael Forseth, who was with the trio of Summit Orthopedics doctors that made the trip to St. Damien Hospital, which is located on the outskirts of Haiti’s capitol Port-au-Prince, where the most damage was recorded.
Near ground zero
St. Damien, which opened in 2006, is the country’s only free pediatric hospital and is funded from benefactors primarily from Europe and the United States.
Forseth, who has made medical mission trips to other countries, such as Columbia and Honduras, said Haiti was an experience unique unto itself.
“This was a disaster situation,” Forseth said. “There were so many people who needed immediate care and it was non-stop.”
The full story is available in the Wednesday, Feb. 17 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin.