Keck team returns from Haiti

After teaming up to provide emergency medical relief in Haiti over the course of five days, USC Keck School of Medicine doctors and Los Angeles County medical professionals returned to Los Angeles Saturday and were scheduled to return to work at County Hospital Monday.

“We were disappointed we were not able to continue our work for a longer time period,” Dr. Ramon Cestero, the group’s team leader and an LAC + USC Medical Center trauma surgeon, wrote on a blog created to record the doctors’ experiences.

Cestero added that the arrival of new medical teams to Haiti reassured the Keck team that those still in need of medical care would be in good hands. The Keck team was among the first medical personnel to arrive in Haiti, according to Bayard Veiller, chief of staff to Keck Dean Carmen Puliafito and the logistical coordinator for the team.

“We got our team there 48 hours before the 82nd Airborne got there,” he said.

The specialized trauma unit — made up of 10 surgeons, critical care doctors and nurses — worked in difficult conditions to afford Haitians with medical care.

“We feel that we made a significant impact on the several hundred patients we saw and treated who otherwise would not have received medical and surgical care in a timely manner without our involvement,” said Cestero, who worked for 28 hours straight to provide ailing Haitians with much needed aid during the trip.

In addition to performing surgeries, Cestero and his colleague, Dr. Henri Ford, vice dean of medical education for the Keck School, chief of surgery for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a native Haitian, sent photographs and messages back to share their first-hand experiences in the earthquake-devastated country.

“It’s amazing that they’re able to do that. It really gives everyone the opportunity to understand what it’s like to do this kind of work and what’s it’s like for the poor people of Haiti who have suffered this horrible tragedy,” Veiller said.

In the absence of the trauma physicians and staff from County, the schedules of other hospital personnel were adjusted to fill the gaps.

“We fully staffed the emergency department at County while these people were gone.  So no, there were no lapses in coverage here at all,” Veiller said.