Surgical trips to the Dominican Republic (DR) provide a crucial medical service that is either too costly or unavailable for the average citizen. Most recently, Rush orthopedic surgical teams worked alongside our Dominican surgical partners at the Taiwan Hospital of Azua on patients whose injuries would have resulted in life-long disabilities.
In these tight-knit communities where everyone provides a vital role in caring for their families, a long-term injury or disability can have a drastic effect on the social and familial structures. The effects of one person’s injury reach further than their own health and wellbeing.
For example, one patient, who is in his 30s, was suffering from a hip fracture and dislocation. Surgery for this complicated injury required a creative repair. By the time our surgeons operated on him, he’d already been in the hospital for six weeks, during which time he could not work to provide for his family. The success of the surgery allowed him to regain his normal life and return to farming. Without the surgery, he wouldn’t have been able to walk again.
“Performing surgery in the DR was beyond an eye opening and amazing experience,” said Dr. Ricky Hansen, who participated in the orthopedic surgery trip in October 2018. “We performed surgery for 16 hours a day, four days in a row, and every day was filled with challenges ranging from lack of equipment to physical and mental exhaustion, but a good patient outcome was always at the forefront of our minds. This environment was a stark contrast to the well-oiled machines that were my prior OR experiences in the US.”
Dr. Kristin Buterbaugh, an Orthopedic Surgeon who travelled to the DR in January, was shocked by the sheer number of femur fractures, largely caused by motorbike accidents. “We functioned as the surgical techs, circulating nurses, cleaning crew, and surgeons for every case,” she said. “It was a non-stop experience, working from 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. for four days straight to complete 25 cases.” Eleven of those cases were femur fractures.
“These were patients that were either unable to walk or only able to walk with constant pain,” Dr. Hansen said. “Knowing that on the other side of the surgery these patients were given a chance to walk again was incredibly rewarding.”
The team also completed the first SIGN nail at Azua hospital. SIGN nails are special orthopedic rod implants that are designed for developing countries that do not have x-ray capabilities, and are free to all patients.
“I was continually impressed by the shear amount of supplies and resources that it takes to run an efficient and organized surgical trip,” said Dr. Buterbaugh.
Tackling these surgical cases not only improves the patient’s health but prevents long-term economic and social fall-out in the communities. CE is grateful to continue working with its surgical partners in the DR to provide ongoing care.