The Storm's Wake

December 7, 2016 by John "Bull" Durham

Last week was my 23rd or 24th trip. Since the earthquake, this was the most moving of my experiences working as a volunteer orthopedic surgeon in Haiti. This trip to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew was a short one and scheduled only to care for some upper extremity injuries that made it to Port-au-Prince from the southern peninsula where over 500 people died and tens of thousands have been left homeless.

John "Bull" Durham, M.D. '86 with his daughter Annabelle during Reunion 2015

John "Bull" Durham, M.D., from the Class of 198​6 has been involved in relief work in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake in that country. Most recently, he traveled there in October after Hurricane Matthew struck the country earlier in the month. He sent these notes (which appear in edited form) to share with his fellow alumni and friends.

Last week was my 23rd or 24th trip. Since the earthquake, this was the most moving of my experiences working as a volunteer orthopedic surgeon in Haiti. This trip to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew was a short one and scheduled only to care for some upper extremity injuries that made it to Port-au-Prince from the southern peninsula where over 500 people died and tens of thousands have been left homeless.

The most difficult case for me was a 10 year old boy who lay on the ground for several days after he was hit by debris which severed his spinal cord through a thoracic spine fracture dislocation. He arrived with the worst decubitus ulcer over his right buttock that I have ever seen. We debrided this and watched his fevers go away. He also has tetanus and is being kept alive with a ventilator. He will not likely survive.

Next week the America Society for Surgery of the Hand is sending a team to Haiti through their volunteer program "Touching Hands." They will care for patients with upper extremity injuries and teach the Haitian orthopedic residents. These residents are bright, talented, and eager to learn. "Touching Hands" will also help train these future orthopedic surgeons in techniques that will allow them to care for these patients who do not get treatment unless a volunteer hand surgeon is in Haiti. Our team returns in December.

Many in the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes are sleeping tonight on a sheet on the ground, includind the families of two Haitian exchange students. My trips to Haiti are always humbling experiences, and I return feeling so lucky for what I have: a roof, four walls, a bed, food and my healthy family.

For more information see: www.navmc.org

Dr. Durham received the Service to Medicine and Community Award at Medical Reunion 2015. Learn more about the award.