Akron Children’s Hospital formed an affiliation with St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010 to help them care for sick children. As part of the affiliation, Akron Childrens doctors, nurses and staff travel regularly to the poverty-stricken country to bring supplies and provide medical training. This post is the first of a 3-part series by pediatric ICU nurse Erin Rosen, who shares the partnership’s most recent milestone to perform the first open heart surgeries at St. Damien’s.
EREEEN. It was my first day back in Haiti, and no greeting had ever been so heartwarming.
In March, the staff at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital welcomed me and the rest of the Akron Childrens team in usual Haitian fashion – with utmost hospitality and care.
We had just arrived at the hospital from the States, and eager to begin working on readying the pediatric intensive care unit for the upcoming week of surgeries.
An international and multidisciplinary team had gathered in Haiti to perform the first open heart surgeries at St. Damiens.
Dr. Jaclyn Gotier, the medical director of St. Damien, along with Akron Children’s physicians Jeff and Ellen Kempf worked diligently with Rotary International and Gift of Life International to align resources to make this vision a reality. We had quite the group.
Work began immediately with the help of Dr. John Pope, an intensive care doctor at Akron Children’s Hospital. He had coordinated much of the large equipment in the intensive care unit needed for these operations. The group split up to screen children with cardiac defects for possible surgical candidacy and inventory equipment.
Haitian nurses Ganaelle and Marie asked questions in preparation for the surgeries. Head nurse, Edna, could be seen directing progress as she guided the team between the OR suite and critical care unit.
Nurses from Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York and Boston Childrens Hospital organized medicines, bed spaces and planning workflow in the critical care unit.
In the flurry of activity those first 2 days, we all learned a little about each others backgrounds, mission experiences and work habits. But no matter the place of residency, the common denominator that had brought each person to Haiti was his or her enthusiasm to provide kids with the opportunity to live and grow with repaired hearts.
We were exhilarated at the privilege to serve!
The expectation and eagerness to begin the week was palpable as the entire team ate a celebratory meal the night before the first surgeries. Father Rick blessed our venture and week, especially praying over the hands of the surgeons, doctors and nurses.
The lights in the new dining area were dim and the sounds of the outdoors hummed as delectable Haitian dishes were descended upon and the comradery began at Villa Francesca.
Akron Children’s PICU nurse practitioner Kelly Metzger had everyone cracking up at her stories, as Akron Children’s hospitalist Brittany Potts was tackling a debate on Haitian healthcare, and nurses from Childrens Hospital at Montefiore and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had engaged me in swapping hilarious stories of previous mission experiences.
It made for a fun night of team bonding, and soon we all bid each other bon nui until the authentic work of the mission began the next day.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, were telling the story of Akron Childrens through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.