Urologist finds Haiti to be an opportunity for service
Dr. Robert Eyre is a Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital urologist who, on his two trips to Haiti, discovered himself, with his colleagues, providing care far from his usual practice.
"We did everything from skin grafts and palliative mastectomies to umbilical hernia repairs and plastic reconstruction," he said, "and patients ranged in age from 6 weeks to over 80 years of age."
Dr. Eyre has been to Haiti twice now, on trips sponsored by Salva Vida, the charitable foundation of the Catholic hospital system in Richmond, VA.
"We did our work in Jacmel, Haiti, on the southwestern coast, about a four hour harrowing drive over the mountains, in January 2012 and February 2013," said Dr. Eyre, invited by his medical school friend Dr. Fred McGlynn, "who asked me to join his group, as there had never been any urologic care in Jacmel.
"In 2012 the facility had only one rudimentary operating room, and we had to carry in every piece of equipment, IV bag, suture, drape, gown, etc. with us. The power frequently went off, and we had only one OR light that occasionally worked, so I wore a battery-powered headlamp to do all the surgeries."
In November, 2012, Dr. Eyre joined Dr. Glynn to scout out a new facility in Jacmel and to screen patients for a planned week-long trip in February 2013. Dr. Eyre's son, Andrew, a second-year emergency medicine resident at BWH and MGH, provided anesthesia care and surgery assistance. For this trip, they joined Community Coalition of Haiti (CCH) dedicated to improving health care in southwestern Haiti.
"They had built an incredible clinic, including outpatient, rehab and operating rooms, about two blocks from the hospital where we worked last year, and we were able to complete 31 cases in three and a half days of operating, compared to only 17 the previous year."
Despite these improvements, the team had to bring in much of the equipment they needed.
"They have no lab work, x-rays, or other services available and many patients walk into the clinic hoping that they can have an operation that day or the next, as word spreads quickly when we are there," said Dr. Eyre. "One fellow walked in with a huge mass on his ear that I was able to remove and do a nice plastic reconstruction. It is very gratifying to be able to do the kinds of interesting cases that we learned how to do in training."
Dr. Eyre noted that he was able to put together small instrument packs from central supply at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital. "Many Haitian employees who worked in CPD wished they could go with me and sent their prayers," he said, "and many of my patients have generously donated to support the expenses of some of the staff who travel with us."
A 2012 photo of the St. Michel clinic waiting area in Jacmel, Haiti
Dr. Robert Eyre’s son, Andrew, holds a young patient after his father completed an umbilical hernia repair and circumcision on the child. Dr. Andrew Eyre had fashioned the pants the patient is wearing out of a surgical drape.
Dr. Robert Eyre with his patient following plastic reconstruction on the ear.