We are back from our medical mission to Sri Lanka and judging from the response of the patients and the doctors, I think we can declare the mission a great success. We are invited back and we already have our line up of volunteer doctors for 2013!
I was gratified to see United Aid Foundation’s vision of “direct aid” as a working reality. Every stage of the mission flowed seamlessly from beginning to end because it was organized and coordinated by volunteer UAF board members who have been on similar aid missions since UAF was founded in 2005 and volunteer board members of Bridge 2 Peace, an established Sri Lankan NGO experienced in facilitating missions to communities in crisis in remote areas of Sri Lanka. Since Bridge2Peace arranged for the New York doctors to stay in a donated private home with delicious meals included, we were able to use your donations to acquire the badly needed medical supplies and equipment for the Trincomalee hospital. The Bridge2Peace NGO was our expert liason with the government and the armed forces, to provide us with security, transportation, emergency services and unforgettable hospitality. To expedite the trip from Colombo to Trinco (which would ordinarily be an 8-10 hour drive) we were shuttled by an air force plane from Colombo to Trincomalee in forty five minutes! And when the main water pipe burst in the town, the army came to our rescue with a giant water tank!
Here are some pictures and an excerpt from the mission update by Nientara Anderson, who was our go to person for the mission. She did an amazing job, with the constant help and support of her parents, Bernadine and Andy Anderson who are my dear friends and founders of Bridge2Peace.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO MAKE THIS DREAM A REALITY!
Sandra Joseph Nunez
Chairperson and Co-Founder, United Aid Foundation
“…As they did their pre-operative rounds through the open-air corridors of Trincomalee General Hospital, the American mission doctors and their local colleagues were flanked on every side by patients waiting to be seen. Older women and mothers lay on the floor on UNICEF mats left over from the Tsunami, small groups of children clung to their mother’s saris, and men with farm or fishing-related trauma bore their injuries stoically while nurses rushed to clean and dress their wounds.
The doctors from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and Montefiore Hospitals arrived at Trincomalee General Hospital within hours of landing in the remote coastal town. They spent their first day setting up donated supplies in the operating theater, reviewing the facilities, meeting local staff and evaluating patients who had already been screened by the local doctors. The surgeons and anesthesiologists then began their case list, operating from eight every morning till nine each night, and completing thirty-three surgeries in three days.
Most of the mission patients needed major surgeries and, in the absence of the United Aid Foundation/Bridge2Peace mission, these patients would have had to leave their families and travel eight to ten hours to a more central hospital in order to receive treatment. The mission funds were used to pay for diagnostic tests and scans, which the patients were unable to afford, and for specialized surgical equipment, which Trincomalee Hospital were unable to afford. Many of the surgeries required five to six hours of operating time and ICU care for a few days post-operatively. The surgeries performed included obstructive late-stage cancers, major orthopedic traumas, and long-neglected hernias, gallbladders and gastro-intestinal cases. All the patients have now been discharged in good or improved health.
This mission was also a teaching mission, and the anesthesia team from St. Luke’s spent all week teaching the local anesthesiologists how to perform ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia. Working with the surgeons from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and Montefiore also gave the three young Sri Lankan surgeons the rare opportunity to perform complex surgeries in the company of older, more experienced colleagues. Given the high incidence of trauma at Trincomalee General Hospital, the US mission team also delivered a seminar on current practices of trauma management in the operating theater and in the ICU.
On the final mission day at Trincomalee General, the exhausted but enthusiastic local doctors, nurses, and staff, shook hands with their American colleagues and entreated them to return as soon as possible. On their last post-operative round, the team of doctors was met with smiles of recognition and gratitude by their patients. After communicating via translators all week, patients and their families clasped their doctors’ hands and conveyed their emotions directly. One young boy recovering from an orthopedic trauma smiled up at the doctors and said that he used to be an athlete at school and now that he had received his surgery, he wanted to run a marathon one day.”