Area doctors and nurses prepare for Haiti
ASPEN – A group of local medical professionals preparing to go to earthquake-ravaged Haiti are asking for financial assistance in order to help complete their mission.
While the project is in the preliminary stages, Tom Dalessandri of Carbondale is organizing a group of doctors and nurses to travel to Haiti in the coming weeks. The plan originally was supposed to take shape by the middle of this month, but Dalessandri is now shooting for later because of logistical and financial issues, he said.
“Our real issue is that we don’t want to flounder once we get down there; we need a constructive plan,” Dalessandri said, adding he is dealing with a dozen different organizations tofind the right facility to work from, as well as provide the necessary support.
The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation (AVMF) is accepting donations and will administer the funds for the local medical relief mission.
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AVMF Executive Director Kris Marsh said several thousand dollars have been raised so far.
Dalessandri said another major issue is travel, since it’s still difficult to fly into Port au Prince via commercial airlines, and flying into the Dominican Republic requires a 12-hour drive to Haiti.
A private jet could solve that problem.
“We need someone who can get our people on the ground and then get them back out,” Dalessandri said. “We need anyone who can support travel.”
He added that money raised through the AVMF would largely go toward medical supplies, as reports from doctors on the ground indicate simple items like sutures and anti-bacterial materials are running out.
“Doctors and nurses find themselves with their hands tied,” Dalessandri said.
He said about five doctors and seven nurses from the valley have committed to making the trek. The operation would run similar to an incident command system in which the volunteers would stay in Haiti for between 10 and 14 days and then return to the Roaring Fork Valley.
“Otherwise they get burnt out or overinvested,” Dalessandri said. Aspen Valley Hospital emergency room Dr. Steve Ayers said he plans to join the effort, but it likely won’t be for a few months. However, the need will still be just as great.
Thousands of Haitians have had limbs amputated, and infection is a real threat. Additionally, those patients will require ongoing treatment. And dehydration, malnutrition and disease will be an issue for many months to come, Ayers added.
He said because he specializes in trauma and acute care, he wanted to travel to Haiti right after the earthquake but it didn’t work out logistically.
But he said he knows the need will be just as great when he finally does go. Ayers assisted in the effort in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, alongside Dalessandri. “We went two months after Katrina, and I couldn’t believe the devastation,” Ayers said, adding he worked non-stop for two weeks providing critical medical care to survivors. “That blew me away and that was in the U.S.
“I can only imagine what the need will be down there.”
Ayers added that financial assistance is crucial since most doctors and nurses in the valley can’t afford to take off time from work.
“For every doctor, there’s an inherent thing to help people,” he said. ” This is the highest, biggest opportunity to answer your calling.”
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