Dr. Bhavesh Patel first began partnering with Haiti shortly after the 2010 earthquake. It was when cholera hit Haiti that the work really began and Mayo Clinic Arizona began sending teams to help with earthquake and cholera recovery. It was during this time when some of the team members from what is now Global, Surgical, Destination Healthcare, Inc (GSD), met each other. When the cholera situation exploded in the later part of 2010, Dr. Patel began working with St. Luke Hospital, and through this connection, many of the healthcare professionals now affiliated with GSD also met each other.
Having met Dr. Patel in Haiti, Fr. Rick Frechette went to him when he began having prostate issues. Through that relationship, Dr. Patel was able to bring Fr. Rick to Mayo Clinic Arizona where he met Dr. Mitch Humphreys, a urologist who performs holmium laser enucleation of the prostate (HoLEP) for men who have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, around one third of men experience moderate to severe BPH symptoms by the time they turn 60 years old. This is simply because the prostate gland continues to grow throughout a man’s life, and since it surrounds the urethra, which functions to empty the bladder, benign prostate growth can cause problems with urination.
After receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic Arizona, Fr. Rick, knowing that many people in Haiti could also benefit from his same procedure, suggested to Dr. Patel and Dr. Humphreys to find a way to bring that kind of care to the men of Haiti. Elderly men are often a neglected population within this country. They don’t generate a lot of aid; they are not cute and marketable, like babies and young children. With little aid for this demographic, these men are often left to live for years with catheters, some even unable to work and care for their families because of difficulties and challenges that come with incontinence. With this knowledge, Dr. Patel and Dr. Humphreys set out to restore dignity to men in Haiti, and the group GSD was birthed.
That was in June 2013. Now GSD comes to Haiti at least twice a year to build relationships, teach and share knowledge, and finally, at the end of the year, to perform operations and procedures with the main goal of restoring men’s dignity. Since the group’s formation, they have provided over 200 HoLEP surgeries and more than 250 general surgeries at St. Luke Hospital. The team is determined and committed to continuing this partnership with Haiti, and hopes to build partnerships with other countries in the near future.
An exciting part of this fifth surgical trip that took place the first week of December, was the addition of a newly FDA approved prostate enucleation technique, called aquablation. This biorobotic device uses high-pressured water to cut to a certain depth of the prostate, removing most of the interior. This takes place after the prostate size has been measured using ultrasound. Water jets have been used over the past century to cut many different kinds of materials, everything from marble to celery sold in the grocery store. St. Luke was very excited to bring this high level of care to the Haitian people, and the GSD team was able to complete 6 of these procedures.
On December 1, 2018, the GSD team of 27 members arrived in Haiti. The team members traveled from all over the States, Arizona, Texas, South Carolina, and Maryland, to name a few, and they even had a couple join from the United Kingdom! The team included all kinds of healthcare professionals, from surgeons to technicians, each playing a vital role in the success of the trip. Upon arrival, GSD set right to work. Ahead of the team’s coming, St. Luke Hospital had been notifying patients who were candidates for the HoLEP operation or other minor procedures such as hernias and hydroceles, that they should come to the hospital to be screened by the team. The team screened over 100 patients in clinic that week and was able to complete 25 HoLEP operations, 6 aquablations, and 33 general surgery cases over six days.
Dr. Patel said that this kind of work is all about making connections. His advice to other health care professionals who might be interested in doing this kind of work is to reach out to someone who has gone, or to an organization like St. Luke Foundation. That’s how this all began, and collaboration like this is possible. The Haitian staff at St. Luke Hospital yearns for more exchange of knowledge and technology, and the patients—when they are able to pee easily for the first time in years, they dance!
If you would like to learn more about GSD Healthcare Inc., please visit their website, or their Facebook page. We are so grateful for their partnership, solidarity, and long-term commitment to St. Luke and to Haiti.