Massachusetts Doctors Share Expertise in Fond des Blancs

In June, Fond des Blancs welcomed the Karlson family—special guests and big supporters HEI/SBH . Dr. Beth Karlson, a Boston-based rheumatologist and epidemiologist, was accompanied by her brother-in-law, Dr. James Karlson, an esteemed orthopedic surgeon, and James’ son, Nicholas, who will begin medical school in the fall.

Karlsons talking with dr pierre

Drs. Beth and James Karlson meet with SBH Director General Dr. Inobert Pierre during their visit to Fond des Blancs.

The Karlsons’ stay in Fond des Blancs was packed full of activity. Dr. James, the surgeon, held clinic, gave special presentations to medical staff, and performed orthopedic surgery alongside SBH’s own, Dr. Luther Ward. Dr. Beth held clinic every weekday, and also gave presentations to hospital staff on topics related to rheumatology and epidemiology.

One of the many patients Dr. James Karlson saw during his short visit was a 10-year-old boy with a broken femur. The young boy sustained a serious fall, but could not be seen at the public hospital closest to his home. The patient and his mother instead sought treatment at a small clinic, where doctors referred him to SBH. Luckily enough, Dr. James Karlson, a specialist in these kinds of cases, happened to be here to help. Without his expertise, we would not have had the staff capability to do the kind of orthopedic surgery the boy needed.

Although the boy’s leg was splinted, any movement could cause the fractured bone to cut critical surrounding blood vessels. Thankfully, Haiti Air Ambulance was available to helicopter him and his mother to St. Boniface. Dr. Karlson and his team picked the group up at a nearby field and rushed the child to the hospital to have an x-ray done. The medical team cast the boy’s leg overnight, and the very next day, he was operated on.

With the assistance of Dr. Luther Ward, Dr. James Karlson performed surgery to place a plate on the broken bone. The patient was discharged two days later and is expected to make a full recovery.

It was a real family affair, with Nicholas Karlson scrubbing in to assist with the operation. Nicholas has worked as a scrub technician for the past year while completing preparatory coursework for entry into medical school. The father-son duo graciously donated their own small fragment surgical toolset, casting materials, and other necessary orthopedic equipment to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Dr. Beth Karlson held clinic from early in the morning to late evening every day and was sometimes accompanied by St. Boniface internist, Dr. Blaise. She was incredibly busy, often seeing up to fifty patients each day, and consulting on a range of cases.

Dr. Karlson saying hi to baby

Dr. Beth Karlson visiting with one of SBH’s youngest patients.

In addition to the intense patient load, she carved out time to give two training presentations to SBH staff. The first centered on the Zika virus, a hot-button at the moment. Dr. Karlson presented SBH doctors and nurses with the facts from an epidemiological standpoint, which helped convey the scope and severity of the outbreak. The following day she gave a presentation on another specialty of hers: rheumatology. During the hour-long lecture, she imparted her vast knowledge of the human articular system, especially focusing on joints in the knee. The SBH staff was excited and enthralled to be learning from an expert on a topic many in Haiti have little to no exposure to. Both lectures increased the staff’s knowledge of important topics that will help improve patient care.

Dr. Karlson giving a talk

HEI/SBH cannot thank the Karlson family enough for bringing their expertise to Haiti and for their generous support over the years.