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Haiti is Calling

Haiti is Calling

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Published by Dr Kouka
My Memoirs during volunteering as a physician in Rescue Efforts after the Earthquake
My Memoirs during volunteering as a physician in Rescue Efforts after the Earthquake

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Published by: Dr Kouka on Jun 21, 2010
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01/26/2013

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Haiti is Calling
Nabeel Kouka, MD, DO, MBAOdessa Medical University Alumnus ‘82Monmouth University Alumnus ‘00MNew York College of Osteopathic Medicine Alumnus ‘07
I am not the first one to write about Haiti, but after visiting Haiti to help inaftermath of the earthquake, I decided to write about Haiti from my own prospective and to share my humble contribution to the Rescue Efforts.Being a strong believer in destiny, I believe that everything happens for areason. It was my destiny that directed me to travel for the first time to theUnited Arab Emirates, one of the richest countries in the world, just four months before I traveled for the first time to Haiti, the poorest country inthe western atmosphere. My previous visit to UAE in October 2009 showedme the lavishness and extravagance life that most people live in, but mostimportant I saw that most people there, even children are unhappyregardless of what they have or what you give them. You might ask why,and the answer is very simple: Because they have everything! Actually,they are overindulged and they have more than they need.In comparison with Haiti, despite that people’s lack of basic human needs,such as food and/or shelters that could fit for human’s habitat, they arehappy. I saw more smiles and heard more laughs from Haitian children thanI saw or heard before from any children anywhere in the world. And believeme, I visited and lived in many countries during my life. It’s the paradox of our 21
st
century… During my visit that lasted for one month, the only times Iheard children cries were during the surgeries that I had to perform under local anesthesia due to the lack of general anesthesia. It wasn’t because of the pain, but rather being awake during surgeries. Usually, as soon as Ifinished performing my surgeries, I used to give children some balloons,which I made from surgical gloves, and/or stickers and they wouldimmediately forget what had been done to them and start smiling all over again.My only regret was the fact that I wasn’t able to travel to Haiti early enough. The idea of my trip started assoon as I heard about the Earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. I started looking for a way to get toHaiti in order to help, unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as I expected. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only onewho was trying to volunteer in Haiti. I was astonished to know that hundreds of American doctors, nursesand other medical personnel were willing to travel. That meant I had to wait several weeks before I was ableto get to the proper contacts that would help me reach Haiti. Finally one of my friends was able to get me adirect contact with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB). The contact person at CMMB told me thatI could join their team to Haiti by the end of January, but the trip was postponed to 02/12/2010 then it was postponed again. Finally I was able to join the Medical Missionaries Organization’s team that traveled fromWashington DC on 02/25/2010. The team consisted of another doctor, one physician assistant, one nurse practitioner, three nurses and two EMTs. It took us two full days by plane, bus and on the back of a militarytruck to reach Leogane, our destination town in Haiti. Leogane is about 90 minutes drive from Port-au-Princeand was chosen as our destination because it was the closest city to the center of the earthquake.
In front of the highest buildingin the world - Dubai, UAE 2009Haitian child just minutes of surgeries and casts on both feet
 
During our route to Leogane via Port-au-Prince we saw thestate of total disarrays and destructions. Seeing the magnitudeof destructions up close was totally different than seeingimages on TV. These visions were accompanied by the smellof smoke from burning trashes everywhere. The earthquakedidn’t distinguish between the rich or poor or between smallor large buildings. Every building was affected. Most houses,churches, governmental buildings and even the presidential palace “The White House” didn’t escape the totaldestructions. There were several thousands of tents along theroads, but the most that struck all of us seeing the half nakedkids who were smiling while waving for us. Our final destination was one of several Leogane orphanages,where we lived in tents for the next eight days.On Saturday, the next day of our arrival, we started our expedition to look for a place where we could provide our medical help. Unfortunately, we couldn’t because all hospitalsand clinics were totally or partially damaged. Finally, the headof Medical Missionaries Organization in Haiti, who was alocal doctor, was able to find us a relatively undamaged house.Within less than an hour, we were able to transfer that houseto a fully functional mobile clinic. We were astonished to seethat by the time we finished our preparations, a long line from people with there children was formed at the front of the housegate.The EMTs were responsible for triage, one of the nurses took over the pharmacy and the doctors took thelead in seeing patients with the other medical personnel. I transformed one of the rooms to an OR, where I performed surgical procedures. On the first day our team saw over 250 patients. In addition to seeing patients, I was able to perform several surgeries. Most were minor surgeries and were performed under localanesthesia. We worked until the sunset, where we had to stop because we couldn’t see anymore due to thelack of electricity.On Sunday morning, some of our members attended a local church thenwe all headed to another village, where we were able to establish our mobile clinic. We repeated the same thing as we did the day before exceptthat we saw over 300 patients and we had to turn many others after thesunset. Patients were treated for several conditions that ranged fromsimple headaches, dysentery and chronic conditions to malaria andhypertension crises that required IVs. I continued seeing patients and performing surgeries, which became more and more complicated eachday. These surgeries were ranged from simple debridement of old infectedwounds and abscess I&Ds to foreign bodies removal and amputations of damaged or gangrenous toes and fingers. Later on, I extended mysurgeries to include the performance of circumcisions due to phimosis for  both children and adults, as well as the removal of several tumors fromvarious areas of the body. One of the surgeries that I still remember to thisday was the performance of an episiotomy during a difficult delivery,which resulted in the birth of a beautiful healthy baby and happy healthymother.

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