By Jamie Wright
In early December 2014, I was given the opportunity to accompany Dr. David Sandberg and his pediatric neurosurgery team to Port Au Prince, Haiti, where we performed an incredible 25 surgeries in less than five days. I knew going into this trip that it would be unlike anything I have ever experienced, but that does not even begin to describe it.
My name is Jamie Wright. I volunteer with the Hydrocephalus Association (HA) as the leader of the Houston Community Network and I have hydrocephalus myself. In addition to my volunteer work with HA, I am an MD/PhD student at the University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center. I am currently in my fourth year, having completed three years of training to become a doctor, and I am now taking a “break” to complete my PhD in biomedical research before finishing my last year of medical school. Through school and my volunteer work with the Hydrocephalus Association I have gotten to know Dr. David Sandberg, Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery, at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
I was deeply honored when Dr. Sandberg invited me to join him and his team for their annual medical mission trip to Haiti. This was the second trip for the team from Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and I am the only medical student to have been invited. They usually do not invite medical students to come along because, well let’s be honest, we can’t do much, but he wanted to give me the opportunity to see the effects of untreated hydrocephalus in developing nations such as Haiti.
Our Houston program to bring pediatric neurosurgical care to Haiti began through Project Medishare, a Miami based organization that leads multiple health-centered projects in Haiti. This program also works in conjunction with the Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery, which facilitates neurosurgery-related volunteer efforts in several developing countries. Our team is one of several including Miami Children’s Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and others which alternate sending teams to Haiti to provide much needed neurosurgical care there.
Haiti is the poorest country in our part of the world and with a population of about 10 million people it does not have any trained pediatric neurosurgeons. As individuals affected by hydrocephalus, whether having it ourselves or having a loved one who has it, we know all too well what this means for the children there with hydrocephalus. Before programs such as this one, these kids went untreated and suffered the debilitating, and sometimes-deadly, results of this condition.
I knew going into this trip that it would be powerful and like nothing I have ever experienced. It certainly did not disappoint. I had never been on a medical mission trip before and the only other times I had ever been out of the country were to Canada. The trip itself and the days leading up to and following it brought so many emotions—anxiety, joy, heartbreak and immense gratitude. Over the course of this blog series I hope to share with you at least some small part of this incredible experience.
Other blogs in the series:
Mixed Emotions: My Experiences in Haiti
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