Elizabeth Dale Joins the Head & Neck Surgery Team in Haiti
Elizabeth traveled to Haiti with the Jefferson Head and Neck Surgery "CHANCE" team. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and lacks many healthcare basics that can be taken for granted. For three years, the CHANCE team has been traveling there to provide complex head and neck care and education, and hope to the people of Haiti.
June 1, 2017
The word of the day is humanity.
I am in a very small unair-conditioned pickup truck traversing Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It’s hot. Three of us are crammed in the backseat. Tom Ladd, a 6'6" former NFL lineman and current executive director of the nonprofit cancer charity Radiating Hope, is on my left. To my right is Adam Luginbuhl, MD, one of Jefferson’s head and neck surgeons. Adam’s dad, Daryl Luginbuhl, is up front with the driver. Although we are only traveling about seven miles to visit a hospital, it takes two hours and fifteen minutes to snake our way through the crowded, crumbling streets.
We are here on a mission for humanity.
June 2, 2017
The word for day two is soul. My first recollections of the word soul are from my very early years in parochial elementary school. We were taught one’s soul lives beyond life on earth into eternity. A soul is our compass for knowing right from wrong. A soul distinguishes us from all other creatures.
I hadn’t thought about the word or the concept of a soul in many decades, not until I stood before an operating table and saw the patient: a 20-year-old woman whose skin was pulled back exposing about 70 percent of the underlying muscles, tendons, bone, and teeth in her face and neck. For the first time in my life, I saw the inside of a human body.
June 3, 2017
The words for day three AM are “ban poison darts.”
Day three begins with a formal lesson, a sermon on kindness. At 7 a.m., we join about ten Haitians for a Catholic Mass in an open-air chapel. Rosy light streams through the stained glass windows. The celebrant is Father Richard Frechette: priest, physician, humanitarian. For over 25 years, he has led the organization he founded, the St. Luc Foundation for Haiti. Its mission is to provide healthcare, education, and humanitarian outreach to the least served Haitian citizens. Yesterday’s surgery was performed at the hospital on the St. Luc Foundation’s grounds.
June 3, 2017
Today’s word is helpless.
Later in the day on Saturday, our surgeons went to the open-air clinic to see a patient. In stark contrast to a U.S. physician’s office, there were no walls, only a metal roof above rows of wooden benches. Intermittently, curtains were hung to create a bit of privacy. The clinic was closed, but a family had arranged for their 20-year-old son to see the visiting American surgeons. I hung back across the courtyard, chatting with the nurses.