Just another Medical Humanities Blog

Steps in the Right Direction

Posted by mcdoc on April 27, 2010

In my penultimate post I introduced a patient with a problem. This 12-year-old boy, gravely injured in the January 12th Haitian earthquake, orphaned of his mother, displaced, relocated, with a spinal cord injury and an orthopedic spinal deformity, without having had an operative intervention.

Another blogger/pre-medical student, and I have been cold emailing surgeons about the case. So far, no dice. Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons have generally said that operative intervention is likely indicated, technically routine with a high likelihood of a good outcome. However, surgeons are only one piece of the puzzle.

It takes a highly skilled team to perform spinal surgery. It takes a pre-operative team, then in the O.R. along with the surgeons, there are the anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians, a Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) team, a Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) team; then there’s the step-down to the regular med-surg unit with all their staff, supporting functions and logistics and the physical plant, all of which implies a hospital. Then, there’s the rehabilitation facilities, associated inter-disciplinary team professionals, supplies and adaptive equipment. There is also always the possibility of complications and extra, unanticipated costs.

So, there are many, expensive, technical resources that have to be mobilized, and well, paid for. So, finding a hospital in the position to take on an involved, international, humanitarian, and thus pro bono case is an extra and pretty tall hurdle.

My department acting-chairman suggested a renown hospital affiliated with a voluntary, benevolent society. That particular one did not pan out. However, that suggestion and a positive association I have from my other life led me to make another contact.

Now, it’s time to reveal my dark side. I, along with my wife, so we, like to go to Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby bouts. The local league is the Boston Derby Dames. It all started in Detroit though with the Detroit Derby Girls. These events are held in big venues to accommodate the track, the teams, the officials, the MCs, a Buffer Zone of Safety, the stands, the refreshments, the facilities, the parking. In Detroit the bouts were held at the Masonic Temple Auditorium.

Here in Boston, they’re held in the Aleppo Shiners Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. Shriners, you know, men in fezes driving little cars in parades, oh, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. I contacted them on April 19th with information about the case, and moved on.

Today, I received an email from the Shriners Hospitals for Children that a team at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia believes that on its face, they can probably help this patient, and that the hospital will accept an application for his care. Plus the Global Medical Relief Fund is offering to assist with travel for this patient.

Even if this does not all work out with this connection, hats off to all these fine folk and their organizations!

This is very preliminary, but very encouraging. So the gratifying part begins as I get the parties together. I believe that the medical and hospital details will go pretty smoothly.

The real challenge, like that of herding cats at a distance, will be negotiating the bureaucratic labyrinth in order for V to leave Haiti and travel to the United States for medical care. The word on the street is that the Haitian government generally errors on the side of not granting exit status to children for medical treatment in the United States. So, I expect that this will become a chapter in its own right of this saga.

Stay tuned for more.


2 Responses to “Steps in the Right Direction”

  1. virgomusic said

    Re: Derby Dames: they need room for the merch as well! All those supercute t-shirts and stuff! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So proud of you, baby! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Mark said

    The Shrine Hospital I am involved with (not Philly) just finished treating children from Haiti. The buracuracy getting them out of Haiti and especially getting them back was significant. Can offer suggestions to work through this red tape. If interested let me know.

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