The remote, impoverished Haitian mountain town of Duchity has a lone physician, and the nearest hospital is a two hour drive away. If someone in Duchity breaks a bone, it’s fixed with a stick wrapped in cloth.
In April, while the town’s physician was on maternity leave, IBJI – Arlington Heights physician Brian Donahue traveled to Duchity as part of a team of volunteers who provided medical care to the town’s residents. Donahue previously had traveled to Haiti to volunteer his help in January, 2010, shortly after a massive earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation, and he returned in 2011.
Donahue made his trip this year as part of a group of volunteers from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Naperville, which is a twin parish to one in Duchity. The members of the group, all of whom paid their own way for the trip, also included internists, a pediatric physician assistant, nurses and pharmacy technicians. The team flew into Port Au Prince, the Haitian capital, then drove seven hours into the mountains to reach Duchity.
During his five days in Duchity, Donahue saw between 120 and 150 patients. About half of them were general medicine patients with problems such as hypertension, and the other half were orthopedic patients, for some of whom Donahue performed small procedures.
He provided casts and splints for patients with supplies he brought himself, removed a benign, year-old growth from the foot of a young girl, and removed an external fixator that had been screwed into the leg of another girl for three years. “Now she can walk around without this thing on the front of her legs. She was very happy,” Donahue says.
Donahue plans to return to Haiti at least once a year to continue his volunteer work. “It’s a very rewarding experience. Even though it’s very basic medicine, you’re really helping them out,” he says. “In that sense, it’s medicine at its finest.”