MOREANO WORLD MEDICAL MISSION (MWMM)
The 14th edition of this well established medical mission, led since 1999 by founder and director plastic surgeon Dr. Edwin Moreano of Bayville, New York, headed to the Dominican Republic in February. The team of over 27 included 4 surgeons, 3 anesthesiologists, a psychiatrist, a dermatologist,12 nurses and technicians and 4 high school students was well supplied. That’s because it was the first recipient of a grant from the new Henry Schein Cares outreach initiative! Critical medical/surgical supplies and equipment from stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors to sterile dressings, surgical gloves and antibiotics had been shipped ahead of time. The WMMM team truly appreciated and the patients greatly benefited from Henry Schein’s support.
On day one, as our team slowly wended its way by bus from the hotel in Santiago through early morning traffic under a brilliant Dominican sun, the volunteers peered out the window wondering what lay ahead. Shortly after passing under the “Bienvenidos a La Vega” sign on the highway we arrived at the public Hospital Luis Morillo King. The squat, two story building was run down but one quickly sensed that every medical professional and administrator who worked there was dedicated to the hospital’s mission of serving the poor and underserved.
We walked through a throng of would be mission patients waiting to be evaluated, most of whom waved and smiled nervously. As had been the practice on past editions of Dr. Moreano’s missions to the Dominican Republic and his home country of Ecuador, the volunteers were split up into two groups; evaluations and operating/supply room prep. Joined by Dr. Verghese George, a hand surgeon from Farmingdale, New York, Dr. Moreano evaluated dozens of patients of all ages. They encountered youngsters with fused fingers, deformed joints and ears and an unusual number of adults with facial deformities/scars resulting from incidents of domestic violence. One such case, referred by local surgeon Dr. Mercedes Fernandez, was a young woman whose boyfriend threw acid on her face which required Dr. Moreano to perform 5 separate facial surgeries.
The other evaluation team consisted of Otolaryngologists Dr. Richard Hoistad, of Seattle Sweedish Hospital and Dr. Sandra Skovlund of Park Nicolet Clinic, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Drs. Skovlund encountered multiple tonsil/adenoid problems as well as one large cyst which needed to be removed from the throat of a young girl. Mission co-founder and co-director Dr. Hoistad was presented with many ear cases from massive wax build up to several intricate inner ear deformities requiring surgery utilizing the sophisticated microscope he had personally lugged all the way from Seattle.
All in all, the team performed 127 procedures over 3 days, working non-stop 12-15 hours a day. The anesthesiologists in particular were challenged by the equipment which was available to them. They rose to the challenges led by Dr. Adel Abadeer, a renowned practitioner from New York. Every nurse on the team worked tirelessly under trying conditions, especially in the cramped and at times sweltering recovery room. The OR nurses worked virtually without a break and had to constantly improvise due to “equipment challenges.”
High school student volunteers Gabby and Cameron Moreano, Anna Skovlund and Emma Gugerty spoke Spanish while comforting the recovering patients and distributed gifts along with coloring books to help preoccupy the siblings and families of the valiant surgical patients.
It was fulfilling week for all involved thanks in large part to the efforts of mission coordinators Theresa and Dominic Rodriguez and Nancy Shifren. The exuberant, warm people of the Dominican Republic will not soon be forgotten. As with past missions, the overarching feeling on the bus ride back to the airport was that we had all received more than we had given!