“I wasn’t scared, but a little nervous,” says Orice, 13, lying on the hospital bed with a wide smile on his face as his mother looks on by his side with an equally wide smile. “This was my first time getting a surgery, but I was never scared.”
On August 21st, Orice became the first patient to receive surgery under SBHF’s new round-the-clock general surgery program, led by head surgeon Dr. Luther Ward. He arrived at the hospital with signs of late-stage appendicitis.
“I noticed that he hadn’t been feeling well. He had very painful stomach aches as well as vomiting,” explains Angela, Orice’s mother. “I took him to a health center but didn’t get any answers about what was causing the sickness.”
After encouragement and referral by a friend, Angela decided to bring Orice to St. Boniface for care.
“We took a moto-taxi to the hospital which was very difficult since his stomach was very enlarged, almost like a ball, and there were three people on the moto,” says Angela. “He had a lot of pain on the road and a lot of pain when we finally made it to the hospital.”
After consulting with the ER team, head surgeon Dr. Luther Ward and his surgical team performed a life-saving appendectomy on Orice that day.“I was pleasantly surprised by how good the team was and how good the scrub was. The team really came together to do this case as if they had done this before, even though they hadn’t,” says Dr. Ward. “People were very willing to do the surgery here and it wasn’t very hard to do the first case.”
Angela described the surgery as a relief and a blessing.
“We didn’t get any results for what was causing Orice’s sickness until we came to the hospital and we’re fortunate he was able to get the surgery in time,” said Angela. “The doctor was a good doctor and a good man. He takes care of people. After the surgery, he checked on us to see if everything was ok.”
This first surgery marks an important step in St. Boniface’s capacity to provide much-needed safe and quality surgical care whenever it is needed.
“There aren’t enough hospitals doing surgery. You get such late presenting diseases that people die by the time they get to a hospital,” says Dr. Ward. “You need to have hospitals that are taking care of disease closer to patient’s homes so you see the disease earlier and your outcomes are actually good. This is what Fond-des-Blancs needs and this is what Haiti needs.”
Without reliable surgical care, common and easily treatable cases like Orice’s appendicitis become death sentences.
“There is no access to care. The key fact is that a lot of people in Haiti die from very usual problems that they don’t have to die from if they just had access to care,” observes Dr. Ward. “You have to invest in a system that can treat all things–which includes surgery. If your hospital can do surgery it can do everything else.”
As Angela prepared to leave the hospital, she summed up her feelings: “The hospital took good care of my child. I would like for the hospital to continue taking care of others in the same way.”