Seeking Volunteers To Help Establish Wound Care Haiti
- Patrick DeHeer DPM FACFAS
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Most of you who read this blog know that I have been involved in a clubfoot program in Haiti for several years now. In my trips to Haiti, another need has become apparent. The need for a wound care center is critically urgent.
I have initiated the process with the help of some of my Haitian friends to establish a wound care center with the hope that this initiative will eventually lead to an entire countrywide program. This is a large, daunting undertaking and I need help. For those of you who are looking for ways to get involved, here is your opportunity to make a difference.
There are several reasons Haiti needs a wound care center. While I am not specifically calling for a diabetic foot care center, lower extremity-related complications from diabetes are key concerns. Nancy Larco, MD and Philippe Larco, MD, my friends from The Haitian Foundation for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease (www.fhadimac.org/index-e.php), have done a study that demonstrates the rate of diabetes in Haiti is 7 percent in comparison to 5.1 percent worldwide.
In addition to the higher rate of diabetes, there are some unique factors in the country that make diabetic foot ulcerations and amputations so significant and troublesome.
The shoe gear available in Haiti is often of poor quality for most of society, especially those in the most need. Additionally, most Haitians walk significantly more than Americans. Despite the efforts of The Haitian Foundation for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease, diabetes is also under-diagnosed and under-treated countrywide. There is little or no vascular surgery in Haiti. This is especially disconcerting when it comes to microvascular disease associated with diabetes.
Preventative foot care is nonexistent. While we take the availability of things like antibiotics, dressings, wound care products and offloading devices for granted in the United States, they are very limited and basic in Haiti.
All of these factors lead to very high amputation rates and mortality rates directly related to these amputations.
Diabetic foot ulcers are not the only types of wounds that plague Haiti. Motor vehicle accidents and hit and run accidents are very common. Wounds associated with this type of trauma can be devastating. Additionally, most Haitians cook over open fires so burn injuries are also very common. Venous stasis ulcerations, filariasis syndrome, lacerations and insect bites are also common when it comes to wounds in Haiti.
Building A Non-Profit Presence To Seek Funding Support
I have established a non-profit organization already with an early Web site design (www.woundcarehaiti.org/) from the U.S. side. Tax-exempt status (501c3) still needs to be obtained so donations can be made to the organization. The Web site needs some changes made and it needs to be formatted for search engine optimization. Additionally, we need to start social networking to help promote Wound Care Haiti.
We need to apply for grants for funding of the program. We need to make contacts and affiliations within the non-profit world. We need people to help with formalize the non-profit organizational structure and relevant accounting information. The program needs equipment and supplies, and arrangements for the shipping of these items. Fundraising will be vital to the success of the program. Volunteers from the U.S. could help in all of these areas.
Key Components To Facilitating The Expansion Of Wound Care Haiti
From the Haitian side, initial training and educational seminars will be required before the clinic is opened. Ongoing hands-on training with patient care both in clinic and surgery will be needed. Documentation standardization and treatment protocols must be established.
Eventually, the program will be expanded throughout the country in larger cities. Accordingly, we will need to evaluate sites for new clinics and establish those clinics.
Another important component is developing relationships with the Haitian medical community and the Minister of Health in Haiti for sustained growth. Ideally, Wound Care Haiti will be a program for Haitians run by Haitians with support from the U.S. We will also need to establish a Board of Directors consisting of both Haitians and other qualified volunteers from other countries. These activities will require frequent travel to Haiti during the organizational periods and periodically thereafter.
A Call For Medical And Non-Medical Volunteers
I am in this project for the long haul but I also realize that I need help. It will be a big undertaking and I am still very involved in the Haitian Clubfoot Program as Director of Education and Training for CURE International. For those of you who get involved, it will change your life on any level you can help. For those who choose to go to Haiti and get to know the people and the country, you will quickly develop a place in your heart for these amazing people. Both medical and non-medical personnel are welcome and encouraged to become involved.
What is the next step? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you so we can discuss your involvement in the project. Thank you for reading my blog and considering this cause. I will close this blog edition with some quotes about service.
“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.” — Walter Reuther
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.