First, and foremost, the team members, who are donating their expertise, their time (both for the mission and the endless preparation), supplies, and paying their way. For many on the team, this is their first mission - I know the gratitude on the faces of the kids we help will be more then ample reward. Thanks for putting up with me and the never ending e-mails, phone calls and tasks! Please refer to my last post for the list of team members and a partial team photo - there will be lots more photos of the team during the mission.
The hardworking staff of Healing the Children all deserve recognition http://www.htcne.org/Web%20Pages/staff_board/ourstaff.htm. We could not have done without their contacts and organizing help. Specifically, I'd like to personally thank executive director Dana Buffin for negotiating through the changing dates and locations, and board member Steve Nargiso who graciously adjusted his schedule and volunteered to join our team at the last minute. I'd also like to thank Missy Law, Lisa Cohen, Phyllis Amdurer, and travel agent Ann St Hilaire for making arrangements and putting up with all the last minute changes.
In advance, I'd like to thank our hosts in Santa Marta, UNIMA under the direction of Cecilia Santos de Cely, and the Hospital Fernando Troconis. Our hosts are arranging local transportation, accommodations, and space in the hospital to screen, operate and recover patients. They have sent out word of our mission to the surrounding areas, and we are expecting more then a hundred patients.
Locally, I am indebted to those at the Vassar Brothers Medical Center http://www.vassarbrothers.org/ and the Fishkill Ambulatory Surgery Center http://www.vassarbrothers.org/medmall.asp?urh=medmall_ambulatory who have gone out of their way to facilitate this mission.
Dr. Daniel Aronzon, CEO of the Medical Center (pictured above with me at a recent fund raising event), has made an effort to champion humanitarian efforts, and this mission was no exception. Bill Silta, head of pharmacy (seen below with Gail Kennedy) has supported our effort to gather needed medications.
Greg Bishop, Paul Corish, and Joanne Ritschdorff of the Surgical Services at Vassar, and Nancy Fitzgibbons at the Fishkill Surgery Center, have been more then giving in allowing us to borrow needed surgical instruments, donating excess supplies and equipment, and adjusting staff schedules so that they can participate in the mission (Joanne and Paul are shown below). The same is true of the nurses on the Pediatric Floor.
Dr. Tim Dowd, head of North American Partners in Anesthesia, and Dr. Richard Goldmann, based at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, have been supportive of anesthetist Nick Schewtschenko's participation and efforts to gather much needed anesthesia supplies. Nick is pictured below, flanked on the left by Dr. Dowd and on the right by Dr. Goldmann.
Priti Shah, director of the pharmacy at Kingston Hospital, and inventory coordinator Deb Reed, came through again with much needed medications for another of my humanitarian missions. The physicians and staff in the Fishkill offices of New Century Medical Associates http://newcenturymedicalassociates.com/ and TLC pediatrics also opened their hearts (see Kavita's post below). I would be remiss if I omitted the contribution of the staff at my office, especially Judy Fallon and Kathryn Alexander, who are true as ever http://www.nyfacemd.com/.
A few other notes:
-- Team member anesthesiologist Dr. Pat Escandon, originally from South America and a seasoned veteran of Healing the Children missions, has helped immeasurably by coordinating communication with our hosts in Colombia. In addition, team member nurse Terri Daly's good friend Alma Santana (who teaches Spanish) has helped me with translation of e-mails to and from Colombia.
-- My wife and team member, Dr. Kavita Aggarwal has arranged for a bus (I'm told its a big yellow school bus :) to transport us to the airport (we have to leave at 3:45AM), and bring us back (flight gets in to JFK just past midnight, and lots of us are working the next day!).
-- Roberta Green and Bess Rodgers at the Dutchess County Medical Society http://www.dcms.org/ offered ready support by reaching out to all our local physician members for needed supplies and medications.
-- Anesthesiologist Dr. Basil Abeysekera of St. Francis Hospital was initially scheduled to go on this mission and provided me great assistance formulating the list of anesthesia supplies. However, with the change of dates for the mission, he is not able to go. Anesthesiologist Drs. Mike Simon and Matt Klein at Vassar and Kalpana Modi at St. Francis were likewise very interested in participating, but had scheduling conflicts. I am sure they will all join us on future missions.
-- Ray Norat of the Arlington Rotary Club http://skyelogic.com/~ed/arlingtonrotary/ made a sincere effort to arrange shipment of our medical supplies. However, given the late date, advance shipment was not possible, and the team will hand carry everything. Thanks for trying, Ray, and I would appreciate your help in the future.
-- I also have to thank my resident, Dr. Anand Patel, without whose help we would not have been able to locate the anesthesiologists needed for this trip http://www.nyee.edu/current-residents-in-otolaryngology-ent.html.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge Dr. Minas Constantinides and Ann Holton of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for sanctioning this trip as a Face to Face medical mission http://www.facetofacesurgery.org/. Through them, I was introduced to Dr. Carlos Pedroza of the International Federation of Facial Plastic Surgery Societies, and have been in touch with Dr. Alba Betancort, a physician based in Santa Marta, who has graciously offered to provide her assistance and any necessary post operative care.
Manoj T. Abraham, M.D.
Behind the Scenes Team Support - by Debbie Fritz, R.N.
The planning and preparation stage for our mission involved months of effort and support from a large number of volunteers and recruits. When I originally asked Dr Abraham if he would be interested in doing a medical mission with HTNCE, I had no idea that he would take this idea and run with it- I was thinking as a team member, not a team leader! Organizing and leading a mission can be extremely fulfilling, but it is impossible to know the effort that goes into making this a reality. Helping Dr. Abraham to make this mission successful has been a long process of collecting, organizing and then begging for more supplies. We started actively collecting supplies and garnering support from our friends, coworkers and contacts many months in advance of our trip.
We began by contacting our supply representatives and asking if their companies donated to humanitarian missions and when we found these generous companies; we began asking for donations, and when required we went through the process of writing grant letters and proposals to these companies. Companies like Ethicon and their Medical Mission Program, who donated almost all of the suture we needed; and Schering-Plough Physician Asst. Program (Map International) who generously donated two large boxes of medications appropriate for our trip. Other companies like Cardinal Health who donated packs and drapes; Medtronic who donated surgical supplies for the heath care of patients; our 3M representative who gave us a book of supplies to look through and then provided everything we asked for.
Of course none of this would have been possible without the endless help and support of my coworkers, but most of all friends, at Fishkill Ambulatory Surgical Center. Many thanks to Ann Conboy, PACU Coordinator and Nancy Fitzgibbons, OR Coordinator for their flexibility and thoughtful help with my work schedule, helping to attain supplies, and allowing us to borrow surgical instruments. Ann is shown on the left below, and Nancy on the right.
Maureen Merchant, Head of CSP and Purchasing (seen on the right below) who would always make sure to ask the reps if they could donate any supplies towards our mission. Because of her efforts we procured many of the supplies needed for surgery. Debbie Vasquez (on the left), Anesthesia Tech, was instrumental for many of the anesthesia supplies attained through her contacts. And, Daisy Gotay of CSP (on the right above) and Dawn Marie Pries-Ogden, Perioperative Tech, (on the left) for all their time spent taping all instruments and sterilizing supplies. The children who’s lives that will be touched by our mission will only be meeting half of the team because the other half will still be at home, behind the scene. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
Debbie Fritz, R,N.