Touching Hands Project: Haiti 2014 - Day 4

Rebecca von der Heyde, OTR/L, PhD
Day four of the Touching Hands Project (THP) mission was a busy and a multifaceted one, including surgery, screening, and an educational conference for local orthopedic residents and fellows. In addition to our team, we also welcomed two students who are studying physical therapy in France: Kiara, a Haitian native, and Chloe, visiting from France.


The OR had a delayed start as the x-ray machine was non-functional. The etiology was related to the previous day power outage. After a two hour delay the surgeries got up and running. Dr. Alexis had a handful of cases on the schedule with the intent of completion before clinic, and suddenly at noon we found ourselves still in surgery with a hallway of clinic patients waiting and all of the residents having arrived for the conference.

In typical mission fashion, the team was nimble and responsive, sharing responsibility and helping to get all tasks accomplished. Scott and Mark masterfully completed a release of a Volkmann’s established contracture while George complemented Dr. Alexis’ efforts on fixation of a distal femur pseudoarthrosis following a fracture.


Clinic was primarily comprised of adults; however, the most compelling case of the day was a child with rickets whose mother could not afford to buy him proper vitamins. Garvey worked his magic with our driver, Richard, to scour the local pharmacies and purchase Vitamin D and B 12 for the boy. These types of cases remind us of the basic necessities that we take for granted at home.

Clinic also included two additional patients suffering from the after effects of Chikungunya virus, which we have come to recognize as a very common ailment here in Haiti. The team is taking every precaution to avoid catching this virus transmitted by mosquitoes; Deet has become the fragrance of choice and is shared generously among our group.

The educational conference was held in a small classroom here at the Hospital Adventist Haiti (HAH) and Scott, Mark, and George gave lectures to residents from multiple hospitals in the Port au Prince area and Chris provided rehabilitative insights. Our surgeons were flexible and interactive, offering talks per the preference of the group and facilitating discussion.

After saying goodbye to all of our guests, the team reviewed surgical cases for Thursday and headed back to the hotel to prepare for an evening out with our hosts: Dr. Alexis, Dr. Jacques, and their scrub tech Jean Joel. After a 45 minute journey winding our way through the streets of Port au Prince, we arrived at Caribe and shared a delicious meal under swaying palms and a bright moon. After a wonderful evening with our Haitian colleagues, the team returned safely to the hotel for a restful night before a full day of surgery scheduled for Thursday.