During the week of March 20 - 26, we were blessed with having a team of medical personal from Helping Hands in Annapolis, Maryland. They did 37 surgeries, mostly orthopedic, and all who received treatment were very grateful.
AAMC Surgeons Care for Haiti Earthquake Victim – Justin Paquette, AAMC Magazine
Just before 5 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 12, Michel Thomelus sat in a back pew in the Eglise Saint-Louis Roi de France Church in the Turgeau neighborhood of Port-au-Prince and prayed as he did most afternoons. Moments later, Mr. Thomelus felt a low rumble and then the violent shaking of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that would destroy much of the city he called home.
The century-old Haitian church collapsed, pinning Mr. Thomelus beneath debris. Both his legs were crushed, breaking immediately under the weight of falling wood and stone. His right leg suffered a compound fracture, the bone of his shin shattering.
In the panic, his 22-year-old brother, Evens, pulled him to safety.
Two months later, Mr. Thomelus was nearly 1,500 miles away, in an AAMC hospital room, speaking softly in his native Creole language about his experience.
AAMC orthopedic surgeon Jeffrey Gelfand, M.D., left, visits patient Michel Thomelus after a post-operative check-up. Mr. Thomelus was brought to AAMC by the Helping Hands Foundation to correct injuries suffered in the earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.
“I was scared, and never lost consciousness as the church fell,” Mr. Thomelus said through a translator. “But I was lucky. My brother dug me out. My cousin and another brother both died in the earthquake.”
Mr. Thomelus arrived at AAMC with support from the Helping Hands Foundation, an international medical aid group launched by AAMC orthopedic surgeons Jeffrey Gelfand, M.D., and Thomas J. Harries, M.D.
Through its partnership with AAMC, which provides clinical support staff, medication, an operating room and supplies, the group provides reconstructive surgery to those who would otherwise be unable to receive such care in their home countries.
“The care Michel was able to receive in Haiti probably helped save his leg, but there was no way they could perform the vascular work and complex reconstructions he needed,” said Dr. Gelfand. “He needed a tissue transplant and a bone graft, not to mention a complex fracture repair. He had also developed a severe, highly antibiotic-resistant infection due to his open wound.”
On Friday, March 5, a six-physician medical team removed stabilizing pins from Mr. Thomelus’ right leg and cleaned the baseball-sized exposed wound on his shin. The bones of his right leg were set, and skin and muscle were transferred from his left thigh to close the wound. A complex and difficult surgery that would have been impossible in Haiti took eight hours at AAMC.
Days later, Dr. Gelfand surveyed Mr. Thomelus’ chart and examined the wound, which was healing well. The leg was accepting the skin grafts and two additional surgeries were scheduled.
“It’s like a paradise here, and I’m very happy,” Mr. Thomelus said after getting the positive report. But his eyes betrayed him. His mind was occupied with thoughts of home, with the family he’d left behind and worries about each day. Dr. Gelfand assured him his leg was healing, and his infection was being beaten back by broad-spectrum antibiotics. “Recovery is a process,” Dr. Gelfand said, “but we’ll get you there.”
Mr. Thomelus softly smiled. This, he knows.
Editor’s Note: Michel Thomelus returned to Haiti in late May.
Michell Arrives From Haiti For Reconstructive Surgery
A 28 year old Haitian soccer player arrived yesterday from Haiti for reconstructive surgery to his leg. Michel Thomelus suffered bilateral lower leg fractures during the January 12th earthquake that devastated Haiti. Michel was initially treated by American surgeons on the ground in Haiti as part of the initial emergency relief efforts. The initial surgery stabilized the injuries but left him with a sizeable soft tissue and bone defect in his leg. Helping Hands was contacted by the treating surgeons in hope that we might be able to provide the definitive surgical reconstructive procedures necessary to save Michel's leg. The initial treating surgeon in Haiti stated during his call "...I think Michel has a salvageable leg if we can get him the necessary reconstructive procedures. Unfortunately they are not available in Haiti and if he remains here he will undoubtedly lose the leg." Michel is doing well after his first airplane flight ever. He was greeted at the airport by Helping Hands board members and is already enjoying home cooked Haitian meals made by his host family who is originally from Port Au Prince, Haiti.
Helping Hands Foundation Begins Efforts to Help Haitian Earthquake Victims
Helping Hands Board members have initiated efforts to provide surgical relief to Haitian earthquake victims. Through its established infrastructure of a supportive regional medical center, network of reconstructive orthopaedic and plastic surgeons, and a community network experienced and willing to host visiting patients and families, the board feels they are well positioned to provide what will likely be a longstanding need for Helping Hands services. Dialogue between Helping Hands board members and established relief organizations currently on the ground in Haiti have already begun.
Doctors Race Bicycles Across America to Support Helping Hands
Four physicians from Annapolis will race in this year's Race Across America(RAAM). Anesthesiologists Bill Vickers and Rich Hardart will be joined by Orthopaedic Surgeons Garth Smith and Jeffrey Gelfand. Team Doc2Dock will race their bicycles from Oceanside, California to the City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland to help raise money for The Helping Hands Foundation and The Annapolis Wellness House.
"Team Doc2Doc is a group of doctors who love bicycling and have always dreamt of cycling thru the scenery that our Country offers. In many respects, this will be a Big Adventure for us. However, we are competitive cyclists and will be racing Dock to Dock, partly for the environment but also to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Cycling not only increases life longevity, but has an acute net impact on the environment. Cycling can help reduce cholesterol, lessen cardiovascular disease, and reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes. In the US, we have 2.5 million deaths per year from cardiovascular disease, in comparison to only 700 bicycle related deaths per year. Simply, cycling is good for you.
We couldn't think of a more environmentally conscious manner in which to enjoy America. We plan on racing as fast as possible, but also hope to set new carbon offset and MPG records for our crossing and in the support vehicles we use. We hope to prove that RAAM can be a low impact form of cross country travel.
RAAM races from a pier in Oceanside, California and finishes on City Dock in our hometown of Annapolis, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.
We are soliciting donations to the Annapolis Wellness House for patients and families dealing with cancer and for the Helping Hands Foundation. We ask you to take a minute and please donate to these great causes."
Team to Travel to South America to Instruct in Microsurgery
Helping Hands has begun planning a surgical trip to South America to instruct local surgeons in microsurgical techniques. These skills will enable the local surgeons to perform complex reconstructive procedures. Examples of microsurgical procedures include replantation, transplant, and free tissue procedures(see 'Success Stories' - Rocio)
Dr. Harries teaching knee arthroscopy in Suceava, Romania.
Dr. Tom Harries, Dr. Stefan Puscasu and Dr. Jeff Gelfand during a January '08 trip to Romania.
Helping Hands Foundation - Annapolis, Maryland 21401