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Discussing Experiences

Dr. Mehta and colleagues in surgery

Photo by Michael Ashburn

It’s a new week.  The day has been long.  Since we had not had an opportunity to do any fancy team building stuff, after we completed our cases, we headed back to the clinic (former church) where we sat overlooking the Cange valley and opened the floor to our experiences thus far.  Discussion turned to the book Outliers and to what PIH was as many of us were unfamiliar with Farmer or the organization until the recent events.

Surgeon Similarities Worldwide

We received an email from the Irish team that is to follow the Duke team who are coming to relieve us in a few days.  We have stressed to all the teams coming forward the importance of a plastics / reconstructive surgeon in the ability to cover these wounds with tissue.  The response from the Irish team was nothing but priceless “That is great information. I will try to source a plastic surgeon although it might be difficult to tempt them if there are no breast augmentations to be done! Will keep in touch with the Duke team.”  Ouch.  Sorry Kovach, but it was pretty funny.  I didn’t realize that they were like that across the Pond too!

Late-Night Patient

Examining patient's abdomen

Photo by Samir Mehta

At midnight, as I was leaving the Friendship House, one of our patients in the Church was having an acute abdomen.  Since I was on my way down to go to sleep, I stopped by the Church with Koji.  It was the first time that I had been in the Church that late at night.  I couldn’t get over the smell of sweat that drowned out the cry of the children that were lying on the floors on makeshift mattresses with their loved ones.   I examined our patient – guarding, no rebound, tachycardic, tachypneic, very worrisome.  I walked down to get Babak who came back to the Church with me and assured both Koji and myself that the patient did not have an acute abdomen – we think.  A CT scan would have been great – except that was not an option here.  Basic lab work, a UA or liver panel – not options either.  Empiric treatment for a PE and a UTI it is.

By the way, Babak’s new nickname is "Biopsy Bob" which he does not prefer … he prefers “Skin Graft Sarani” … There is a general surgeon here who seems to find a lot of malignant, fungating neoplasms for Babak to biopsy … which he has gotten quite good at doing.

It seems rather “active” for 1 AM.


This report was written by Samir Mehta, MD, during his participation in Haitian relief efforts through Penn Medicine in coordination with Partners in Health.


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