April 17-22, 2016
Dominican Republicans Aided by St. Joseph Hospital and CHOC Children’s Doctors on Medical Mission
Veteran medical mission doctors from SJO and CHOC Children’s Allan Akerman, Blanca Hampton, Mehrdad Forghani-Arani, David Hicks, Sudeep Kukreja, Vimal Kumar, Brian Palafox, Jacqueline Winkelmann, and Paul Yost, along with other volunteers including Vazrick Nasartian (dentist), three pediatric residents- Eva Yuan, Bonnie Brooks, Sneha Kemkar, Timothy Hicks (medical student), Marjorie MacDonald (SW), Su Zin Thet (NP), two non-medical volunteers- Paula Tobon and Megan Winkelmann were in the Dominican Republic from April 17 to 22, on the 19th international medical mission of Arpan Global Charities. During the five 10- to 12-hour days, the team of 18 saw more than 600 patients, performing 30 major surgeries and 75 dental procedures, and teaching techniques to increase self-sufficiency and save lives in a country where one third of the people live in poverty.
Dr. Akerman states, “Medical missions are a two-way exchange: we provide free medical care to the local community in countries in development and come back home enriched with their culture and kindness. This mission was very special to me because in addition to doing 15 difficult GYN cases, my 5-year-old twin boys and wife travelled with me. They spent time with children in the hospital’s pediatrics department. It’s never too early to teach children the importance of giving without expecting anything in exchange.”
Dr. Palafox adds, “There is no waste in their ORs and little to no paperwork. They save and reuse whatever they can. Their equipment is old and barely functional, but they make do. We were able to adapt to their level of technology and materials to accomplish our mission.
Dr. Paul Yost, shares, “Serving on these missions is a wonderful, life-changing experience, but it is hard work and you frequently find yourself outside of your comfort zone in a foreign OR, where the language and customs are very different, and surgical cases are just as challenging as they are back home. This mission was hard for me as the only anesthesiologist with three awesome surgeons. Fortunately I am pretty comfortable in Spanish, and had lots of help from pediatric residents, as well as the wise and wonderful Dr. David Hicks, our pre-op and recovery room physician. We were
extremely lucky to have Su Thet as a great scrub, circulating and charge nurse (we did do time-outs and counts)! Marjorie MacDonald was awesome as a multilingual, multicultural and extremely organized social worker. The local anesthesiologists were helpful and very skilled. We also had help from Dominican surgery residents and medical students serving as translators, problem solvers and ambassadors. When things got really challenging and a patient was bleeding out, there is no human being on the planet I would rather see across the drapes from me than the unflappable, uber competent Dr. Brian Palafox. It was truly a team effort and we needed everyone’s help to have a good outcome. I will go again, just as soon as I rest up a bit!”
Dr. Sudeep Kukreja, the founder of Arpan Global Charities, recalls : “One lady from a small village who only spoke Creole had an eight-pound tumor removed and had complications. We rushed her back to surgery and found heavy bleeding in her abdomen. She went into shock, and we thought we might lose her, which has never happened on one of our missions. It was scary! The hospital gave us the one unit of O negative blood they had, but it wasn’t enough – she’d lost three to four units. Mehrdad Forghani-Arani, MD, went to the hospital’s blood bank and donated a substantial amount of his own universal blood, saving the woman’s life. Fortunately, she was better the next morning – the day we left – smiling and thanking everyone.”
The mission was based in the University Hospital and Dr. Antonio Musa Regional Hospital, both in San Pedro; and in community outreach clinics. This mission was not possible without Paula Tobon’s hard work and dedication as well as support from volunteers from San Pedro.