Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sentara Surgeon Lends a Hand in Haiti

Sentara Potomac Hospital general surgeon, Dr. Mark Bartolozzi, recently took a medical missionary trip to provide much needed medical care to the residents of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Dr. Bartolozzi was a member of one of five medical teams that were deployed to Haiti by Medical Missionaries, a Manassas non-profit group that provides medical care and supplies to underprivileged countries and those devastated by natural disaster.

After a daunting 12-hour bus ride from Santo Domingo to Banica, Dominican Republic, immediately followed by another 12-hour ride in an open-air Army truck to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dr. Bartolozzi provided medical care to patients at a clinic that treated 400-500 patients a day.

“We saw everything,” said Dr. Bartolozzi. “From burns, skin conditions and cuts to stomach problems, colds and malaria. The patients really amazed me because they would do their best to get dressed and be as presentable as possible to come to the clinic. They were relatively upbeat and happy even though they had absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. They were happy to be getting help and very thankful.”

Dr. Bartolozzi lived in a tent on the clinic grounds and received two meals a day from a Vietnamese volunteer group who provided free rice, noodles, beans and vegetables to the clinic staff, patients and everyone on the hospital grounds -- approximately 3,000 meals a day. After five days at the clinic, Dr. Bartolozzi packed up and moved to the city’s Adventist Hospital for the remaining five days.

“The hospital needed a general surgeon for emergency surgeries,” he explains. “These mostly consisted of gallbladder removal, appendectomies, hernias and abscesses. One woman had a bowl obstruction and needed to be on the one portable ventilator that the hospital had. I stayed with her all night because there was really no nursing staff. Luckily, another volunteer group from Arizona loaned me their nurses for some surgeries.”

Dr. Bartolozzi said that the biggest challenge was not having any nursing help – the hospital just didn’t have the staff. They also didn’t have access to x-rays, CT scans or ultrasound, which made diagnosing very challenging. According to Dr. Bartolozzi, they had to do it ‘the old fashioned way.’

While his team was there, they experienced three aftershocks. All of the patients left the hospital during the first one and had to be coaxed back in by the medical personnel. After the second one, they left and refused to go back inside to complete their recovery.

“We had to treat them outside because they wouldn’t go back into the hospital,” said Dr. Bartolozzi. “I can’t say that I blame them after everything they had been through.”

When he had time during his visit, Dr. Bartolozzi walked the streets of Port-au-Prince to see the devastation. He was both amazed and disheartened by the tragedy of it all, but is very glad that he was able to make the trip and lend a hand to people who really needed it.

Mark Bartolozzi, M.D., is a general surgeon on Sentara Potomac Hospital’s Medical Staff. His office is located in the Century Medical Building, 2280 Opitz Boulevard, Suite 310, in Woodbridge. Telephone: 703-730-4848.