Mission: Possible – 1,000 Patients in 20 Days as Valley Surgeons and Surgical Staff Journey to Nepal on a Medical Mission

Mission: Possible – 1,000 Patients in 20 Days as Valley Surgeons and Surgical Staff Journey to Nepal on a Medical Mission

In November 2017, a group of Valley Medical Center surgeons and surgery staff took part in a surgical mission to Nepal as part of the Aloha Medical Missions program. In conjunction with dentists, gynecologists, and plastic and general surgeons from throughout the United States, the group provided care for some 1,000 patients and performed more than 100 major surgical procedures during the 20-day mission.

Aloha Medical Missions provides surgical and dental services to people who cannot afford treatment, or even the cost of travel to larger hospitals which offer surgical services. The team operates in government hospitals that have no surgical services, so volunteers must set up operating rooms, PACU (post anesthesia care unit), pre-op and post-op wards from scratch. “All of us pitched in to scrub walls, floors, windows, tables, shelves, whatever, just to get ready to perform surgery. We did major surgeries such as gallbladders, inguinal and abdominal hernia repairs, hysterectomies, prolapse repairs, and lots of lumps and bumps were removed,” says Jeffery Stone, MD, a Valley acute care surgical hospitalist who led the team.

Dr. Stone and Cynthia Lewis, MD, a urogynecologist at Valley’s Women’s Surgical Specialists Clinic, have volunteered with Aloha Medical Missions since 2011. As part of their missions, they’ve each traveled to the Philippines and Nepal three times and the Marshall Islands once. “Our first mission (to Nepal) was to a small town named Dhankuta,” says Dr. Stone. “It’s in central western Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas which can be seen from there on a clear day. We went because we knew very little about Nepal and enjoy traveling, especially to out of the way places. We thought we might get to see Mt. Everest and we did! That first mission to Dhankuta turned out to be our favorite because of the people we met, including our mission team, patients, Nepali doctors and hospital staff. We learned that Nepal has more than 600,000 women with severe (uterine) prolapse, which is Cindi’s specialty.”

The Valley contingent also included Valley general surgeon Michael Burke, MD of Valley’s General & Surgical Specialists Clinic, Sunny Ohman, CRNA, Karen Salverson, RN, and Rebecca Hess, Scrub Tech. Additionally, Dr. Burke’s wife, Kim, joined the team as a lay OR sterilization volunteer, helping clean instruments and fold drapes and gowns.

When asked what advice they’d give to staff who might be interested in signing up for a medical mission, Valley’s surgeons highly recommend the experience. Dr. Burke states, “With the high burn out rate among healthcare professionals, getting involved in these activities revitalizes the reasons we (medical personnel) get involved in the profession in the first place.” Dr. Stone adds, “Do it! It is a life changing and life enriching experience. The opportunity to do surgical mission work is a privilege. For me, it is the best kind of medicine to practice when we are paid in smiles and ’Namaste,* doctor.’”

Valley Medical Center has donated supplies and medical equipment to several medical missions. Dr. Stone thanks the following Valley staff for their support:

“Jeremy Wyatt, Manager of Perioperative Services: He facilitated the donation of many high quality surgical instruments and several OR and PACU monitors from VMC to AMM for our mission. He also helped collect lots of the consumable supplies needed in surgery.

Saul Darboe, CRNA: At his own expense, Saul ordered parts and refurbished two used anesthesia machines that I bought at auction. He managed to get them in safe working order and they served us well.

Peni Longmate, CORN: Peni helped us procure valuable hernia repair mesh donated by her vendor contacts and was ever watchful to collect consumables that were not used at VMC but were still usable. We were able to rewrap and resterilize lots of gowns, surgical drapes, and sponges for use in Nepal.”

For more information, visit alohamedicalmission.orgThe next mission to Nepal is Oct. 17 – Nov. 6, 2018. Dr. Stone is currently recruiting volunteers.

*”Namaste” is a courteous greeting, as well as a means of saying “thank you.”

Top – Left to Right: Sunny Ohman (anesthesia), Karen Salverson (OR nurse), Dr. Michael Burke ), Dr. Cindi Lewis, Dr. Jeffrey Stone), Kim Burke Bottom – Left to Right: Rebecca Hess (surgery technician), Sarah Mining (surgery technician), and Joyce Cordoza (OR nurse coordinator)


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