The first week of March was my second trip to Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS), the first was last June. After being greeted at the airport by our most able driver in a colorfully painted Suburban, we headed northeast along the coast road to St. Marks, where we turned inland along the Artibonite River. I noticed that the streets in east Port au Prince had less trash burning along the roadside than when I had visited Haiti before and the drainage ditches were now being cleaned out. There appeared to be random new construction despite many tent villages along the coastal road.
In Deschapelles, I met up with Karen and Bob Boretsky, two anesthesiologists with whom I work at UPMC Shadyside in Pittsburgh. Together with two Haitian surgeons, Dr. Exe and Dr. Bright, we were able to run two, sometimes three operating rooms at a time and performed nineteen operations over the five days of our stay. The most challenging was a newborn with spina bifida, a life threatening condition due to an open spinal cord during development. There were two patients with large recurrent tumors of the hand and shoulder that required surgical treatment. As there is little or no opportunity for chemotherapy or radiation therapy, surgical removal was all we could offer. The surgical specimens were evaluated in Pittsburgh as there are no pathological services in Haiti.
The highlight of our limited social life was a pool party hosted by Nick and Eddie, Ian Rawson’s nephews. Nick’s group of musicians, Prestige, played a most haunting and beautiful original song, Chol-e-ra, an homage to the recent epidemic.
I look forward to a return visit in the fall.