Helping Haiti

AORN Connections—January 25, 2010

As Louise Strickland, RN, BN, CNOR, (sitting right) and members of a surgical team entered L’Hôpital de la Communauté Haïtienne, in a suburb of Port Au Prince, Haiti, they found patients laying on boxes, planks of wood and even the bare floor. On their way to set up an OR for emergency surgeries they observed patients with compound fractures, many with wounds infected.

“Most of these people were not only severely injured, but had also lost their homes and family members in their homes. Seeing the number of people injured … it was overwhelming … we were in a state of shock,” Strickland explained. She was in Haiti as part of a group of nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists and other perioperative professionals from Hospital for Special Surgery, an orthopedic specialty hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and other facilities in New York City. With support from Synthes, an implant manufacturing company, which offered supplies and the use of their plane, Strickland and other members of the team came prepared to provide surgeries to as many patients as possible injured by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

They knew they had to hit the ground running in order to help as many patients as possible. Within 30 minutes of arriving their OR was up and ready, and a triaged line of the most critically injured patients were awaiting surgery. Working around the clock, with a few hours of sleep at a time on floors, Strickland and the rest of the team did more than 100 surgeries in four days. Primarily the patients required orthopedic surgeries and some amputations, but the team brought as many external fixation devices as they could pack onto their plane and this helped many patients keep their limbs. Their last surgery was a c-section delivery of a baby boy.

Now that she is home, Strickland and her colleagues are looking for ways to keep helping. She says there is a serious need for perioperative professionals to help injured Haitians because many of the injuries require surgery. Antibiotics will also be an important resource in the days and weeks ahead as patients recover from injuries. She encourages colleagues to seek resources to help, either by donating to the charities working to help Haiti or by volunteering to be part of a coordinated team to provide direct patient care.

“The key is for the people of Haiti to know they are not alone,” she added.

Read the full story at aorn.org.

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