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Sanford Doctors To Help Haitian Refugees

By Kelli Grant
Published: January 20, 2010, 5:45 PM

If you've been able to donate money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, you may wonder if there's more you can do.

It's a question a group of KELOLAND doctors asked themselves and now they're headed to help. Sanford and MeritCare physicians are using their specialties to save Haitian refugees.

With their bags packed and supplies in tow, this group of physicians is headed to the Dominican Republic. That includes a number of Sanford orthopedic surgeons, an Ear Nose and Throat physician and an anesthesiologist.

"Our whole purpose is what we call priming the pump, so now future teams can come and deliver care in a more effective way. Because now, it's very ineffective and there's lots of people that want to give and do something but just the logistics of this are just overwhelming Sanford ENT Dr. Greg DeSautel said.

In partnership with a group called Children of the Nations International, the team is headed to Barahona, Dominican Republic to help fix the many broken bones.

"All of the Haitian refugees are coming to this place called Hamini and we're going to fly supplies into Barahona and then from there, try to get either the Haitian patients down to the Medical facility in Barahona or take our orthopedic surgeons to Hamani," DeSautel said.

It's a huge undertaking, but one Sanford Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Haft couldn't say no to.
"You know when you're asked to do something like this, you take it as a compliment and you say, 'Yes,'" Haft said.
Haft says he's expecting to treat people with traumatic injuries.

"We will take care of anyone that comes to see us. We each have our skill sets but it crosses over. We're trained to take care of adults and children," Haft said.

They've all seen the video and pictures on TV, but they know seeing the real thing is going to be very different.
"I've been to Haiti. I've seen the worst-of-the-worst so I might be prepared and I might tell myself that. But a lot of times you can't be prepared for what you're going to see," DeSautel said.

Either way, the team knows they have a job to do. And it's a journey these health care providers are proud to take, even if it means putting their lives on hold.

"I've got three kids and a wife and we canceled my practice, canceled my life for a week or so. We'll just resume things when we get back," Haft said.

The group will return to Sioux Falls in a week. We'll then update you on their travels. But we hope to catch up with them later this week with pictures and video.

A team of doctors from MeritCare will join the Sanford Physicians Thursday. And that's good news because right now, just a fourth-year medical student and an orthopedic equipment salesman are trying to treat those at the clinic in Barahona.

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