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Sanford Health Crew Helping Haitians In Many Ways

By Kelli Grant
Published: January 26, 2010, 6:02 PM

They spent five days setting up infrastructure and treating Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic. Tuesday, the surgeons, administrators and an anesthesiologist from Sanford Health are back home. It's a medical mission they won't forget.

The whirlwind trip left them tired. But the Sanford team couldn't be more confident in what they left behind just 24 hours ago.

"How is this facility even here? You're just across from the Haitian border and you have an unoccupied medical facility and an unoccupied orphanage," Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Haft said.

Tuesday, the team members recalled the magnitude of injuries.

"You had patients stacked like cordwood and every one of them had injuries that would keep them in our hospital here for a week or two," Haft said.

They performed 20 surgeries in three days.

"I guess, culturally, in some of the villages there, not having a limb is an unacceptable thing and I know that's true in various cultures and after surgery this little girl's mom didn't want to see her," Haft said.

They experienced aftershocks.

"An earthquake is a scary experience and I don't think I slept comfortably in the building down there the rest of the trip," Haft said.

And neither did the patients and their families who slept outside, afraid of being buried under rubble again.

"The big piece I would do, I would stop and think, you know the Haitians have it a thousand times worse than the stress and the challenges that we're working with now," Sanford Clinic Executive Vice President Rich Adcock said.

And the help went beyond the operating room.

Sanford Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. William Bell took a school bus into Port-au-Prince to help evacuate patients to the Haitian - Dominican Republic border for treatment. Others helped coordinate helicopters to transport the seriously ill. And by working with others from across the globe, they made their mark and say the refugees left one on their lives as well.

"It's probably gonna take me weeks and months to process all of this for myself and figure out what it's meant to my own life. But a memorable experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything," Haft said.

The team was scheduled to fly back Wednesday, but say they made it home a day early to offer their beds, food and water to other medical staff who had just arrived.

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