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Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014

News

Pittsburgh Magazine: Healing to Haiti

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

They arrived late at night. Rumbling by truck through the shattered streets of Port-au-Prince, the earthquake-devastated capital of Haiti, they passed bodies left unburied and piles of rubble that barely resembled the buildings they once had been. Everywhere was chaos, and the city smelled like death.

As their truck continued on, they saw packs of wild dogs but few living people. Twelve days after the earthquake, curfews were in force to keep looters at bay. Arriving at Hope Hospital, 13 doctors and medical personnel from Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) expected to grab a few hours of sleep then to begin operating at sunrise.

But Hope Hospital was a scene of destruction. German surgeons, already working for several days in the hospital's front rooms, told the Pittsburgh team members they could work in the rear, where the only real operating rooms were contained. But because this area had collapsed so badly, the Germans were unwilling to use it. Fault lines crisscrossed the walls, and aftershocks from the quake remained a danger. Setting up shop there would be crazy.

But the doctors were determined to save lives.

It had started as a mercy mission: Ten doctors and three medical personnel from Pittsburgh risked their safety to help victims of the earthquake that ravaged this Caribbean nation. But by the time they boarded their flight home four days later, it became a unique training experience-perhaps even life-changing. For these doctors, it redefined the way they practice medicine.

SAVING STRANGERS
Within days of the quake, the Bouchard family, of Sewickley, who helped engineer the rescue of the BRESMA orphans, offered to sponsor a flight and provide medical supplies. Dr. Mark Sangimino, a senior attending orthopaedic surgeon at AGH, and his wife, Dr. Laurie Sangimino, began working with Dr. James Blaugrund to recruit a team. Dr. Richard Ray, also a senior attending orthopaedic surgeon at AGH, decided to join the group. He knew there was a huge need for orthopaedic surgeons to save patients crushed by falling debris and was inspired by his residents' strong desire to go.

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Magazine website.

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