7th Trip to Haiti for PANW Medical Team -- one of the best.
The seventh trip to Haiti for the PANW Medical Team proved to be one of the most memorable, as well as one of the largest. Dr. Evans-Smith led a team of 24 people to Haiti to treat the underserved population of Gramothe, near Port-au-Prince. One of the physicians who joined the Medical Team this year was Dr. Laura Dahl, who's been with PANW for more than 22 years. "It's something I've always wanted to do," said Dr. Dahl, "I just feel a strong desire to help the Haiti people, however I can."
Dr. Dahl's son, Josh Angle, 14, joined her for the Haiti Medical Team trip, making it even more meaningful. Josh assisted the team's ophthalmic technician with fitting eyeglass frames with the glass -- providing prescription eyeglasses for several hundred people who hadn't been able to see clearly, possibly ever in their lives. This work was instantly gratifying for Josh, as well as enlightening, to consider that something as simple as seeing clearly was not something that the Haitian people easily take for granted. The appreciation and excitement his patients showed when trying out their new glasses was rewarding and humbling. Josh wrote of his experiences in Haiti in an essay for school, as the week made a deep and lasting impression.
A patient both Josh and Dr. Dahl won't ever forget was a young man named Joseph. He'd come to the clinic asking for refills of his seizure medications. Joseph had experienced a convulsion while cooking, and had severely burned his hand when the seizure caused him to fall into the fire. Although he didn't ask for treatment of the burn, Dr. Dahl instantly recognized a truly serious situation -- so grave that the man risked losing his hand. The entire group of physicians and assistants joined their efforts to minimize Joseph's pain while the wounds were debrided and the infection was treated with antibiotics over the next few days. Josh's job was to help distract Joseph while he was being treated. Joseph, who walked more than an hour each day to the clinic and would be waiting outside before the team even arrived, impressed Josh and his mother with his positive disposition each day, despite being in tremendous pain. "He'd had the most difficult of lives, but was just so grateful to us," said Dr. Dahl, still in awe of her patient as she describes the event months later.
Dr. Dahl treated hundreds of patients during her week in Haiti -- at least 40 a day, which is more than twice what she'd see on a typical day at PANW -- but found herself wishing she'd had the time to see even more. "There were more than a hundred people in line first thing each morning, and they kept coming all day. I just wanted to be able to help them all. As many as possible. The hardest part was not being able to get to everyone." said Dr. Dahl, who's already signed up for the next Medical Team trip -- this time, to Bolivia.