Doctor, physician assistant head back to Haiti 

Apr 14
2010

April 14, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- An emergency room doctor and a physician assistant from northwest Indiana are again answering the call for help in Haiti.

Dr. Nick Johnson and a physician's assistant from Methodist Hospital in Gary are making their second trip to the country to provide medical assistance to victims of a devastating earthquake.

Dr. Johnson and physician assistant Johanne Theodule have seen their fair share of trauma at Gary's Methodist Hospital. They say that experience prepared them well for their first trip to Haiti in January and for a second they are about to take this weekend.

"There are thousands and thousands of patients that need help. It's going to take I don't know how many years to rebuild the country," said Johanne Theodule, physician assistant.

Johnson and Theodule are expecting their second trip to be a bit calmer than the week they spent right after the earthquake. Working with the group hospitals for humanity, Johnson and Theodule set up a mini clinic in an open air church in the middle of a refugee camp where 10,000 people were living in tents made out of old sheets.

"People started coming from all over the camp and some people were critically injured and they had to be carried by people, fractures that were a week old, bones sticking out of bodies, open gaping wounds that were horribly infected," said Johnson.

But Johnson says what surprised him the most was that the most dramatic injuries were caused by poor health care, not the earthquake. Working only with the boxes of supplies they personally brought with them, Johnson and Theodule performed medical procedures they had never done before - like a C-section using only a scalpel and no anesthesia.

"The first thing I think is, 'this baby is so small. There's no way that it could live.' And then a second later the baby starts breathing," said Johnson.

In another case, a mother brought in her 18-month-old unconscious child. Using only a stethoscope, Johnson diagnosed the baby with pneumonia. Because the boy was so dehydrated, Johnson could not get an IV in him to start antibiotics.

"I remember hearing in passing during my residency training that if you really need to you can use a needle for a spinal tap which is 3.5 inches long and use that as a source for IV," said Johnson.

And that is what Johnson did. Improvising saved the little boy's life.

"We're going back to Haiti with the same mindset. We're going there with limited resources and a population that has horrible access to health care. We are ready for anything," said Johnson.

Dr. Johnson and Johanne Theodule leave on Saturday. They plan to bring more supplies and equipment donated by Methodist Hospital.

Johnson says on his first trip there were lives they could not save because they did not have the simple resources that are available in any American hospital.

The trips to Haiti are personal for Theodule because her parents were born in Haiti.

Johnson and Theodule are paying for their expenses out of their own pocket.

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