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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

Day 2: A Hurricane's Brewing

On Friday, October 26, Niloo Edwards, MD, head of the division of cardiothoracic surgery at UW Hospital and Clinics, joined a Wisconsin delegation that journeyed to the Dominican Republic, there to spend a week providing free cardiac surgery to indigent residents in Santiago.

During his stay, Dr. Edwards and other surgeons operated on 11 patients, survived hurricane conditions and gained a greater perspective on health care in Latin America. The following is Day 2 of Dr. Edwards' blog of his experience.
Return to Dr. Edwards' Blog: Day 1
Day 2: October 27, 2007
The second morning starts in the lobby at 6:30am. We drive through the rain to the hospital; a tropical depression has formed between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The hospital provides a breakfast of donuts, cereal and potato chips – an interesting perspective of the Dominican view of American dietary habits.
Breakfast of donuts, cereal and potato chips
PHOTO (above): Breakfast of donuts, cereal and potato chips
The first order of business is to unload the equipment we sent a few weeks before. Surprisingly it is all there. The many hands make light work sorting it groups of equipment to go to the fourth floor operating room or sixth floor ICU. We are introduced for the first time to the novel Dominican method of summoning the elevator: There is only one working elevator that is run by an elevator operator who will stop on your floor if you pound on the door and yell your location.
Unpacking the pallets of equipment we sent weeks before by banana boat
PHOTO (above): Unpacking the pallets of equipment we sent weeks before by banana boat
The mission is given three operating rooms – or rather three rooms, since there is no oxygen or pressurized air. Operating room one has a large hole in the ceiling. Operating room two is where we put all our supplies and operating room 3 is a large room with casement windows replete with pigeons on the windowsill.
OR 3 with messenger pigeons on the windowsill
PHOTO (above): OR 3 with messenger pigeons on the windowsill
The OR scrub sinks have most of the amenities of our operating rooms – occasional running water and scrub soap in plastic coke bottles.
Scrub sinks with Coke bottles of scrub soap
PHOTO (above): Scrub sinks with Coke bottles of scrub soap
They even have a computerized charting system of sorts.
The 'charting system'
PHOTO (above): The 'charting system'
Although some of their equipment was clearly quite outdated.
It takes us most of the day to get the operating rooms and the ICU set up, all in the midst of a growing storm and patients in the hallways because the ceilings have started to leak. The locals tell us that they are predicting a hurricane. By late afternoon we are ready to head back to the hotel.
The IED has been abandoned on the pile of empty boxes; we have all become rather attached to it and hope it finds a good home. It has in a strange way become our mascot. But we soon find a new one in the hospital lobby – a small kitten with one eye hanging out its head. The team is part disgusted and part moved by the poor little animal. Joel and Bonnie bring it food every morning for the rest of our stay.
Joel examining the 'IED'
PHOTO (above): Joel examining the 'IED'
The one-eyed cat in the hospital lobby
PHOTO (above): The one-eyed cat in the hospital lobby
We have come to an impasse: We cannot find a working defibrillator in the hospital. Without a defibrillator we cannot operate. It is hard to believe we have come this far only to be stopped by this small piece of equipment. MacGyver and Captain America try to fix it, but to no avail. The hospital promises that they will have a working machine by Monday.
Checking out equipment
PHOTO (above): Checking out equipment
We are delighted to head back to the hotel since none of the toilets in the hospital have seats or toilet paper. The absence of electric lights means that the toilet door has to be left open, and not all the toilets flush. The hotel at least has running water and Presidente beer.
Back at the hotel
PHOTO (above): Back at the hotel
Go to Dr. Edwards' Blog: Day 3