Operation Rainbow doctors treat quake victims

February 3, 2010 7:43:23 PM PST
A Bay Area surgical team is helping victims of the Haiti earthquake. They are working in the Dominican Republic town of Jimani, where they are using a hospital that has power and water. Two of the doctors talked with ABC7 by Skype Wednesday about their work.

"We have children without parents, parents without children and we have many families that are traumatized," Dr. Dave Atkin, director of Operation Rainbow said.

"My experience was to arrive and scour the camp where hundreds of people are here and find the children," Operation Rainbow team member Dr. Karen Makely said.

Atkin, an orthopedic surgeon from St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, and Makely, a pediatrician, are volunteers on a team of 16 surgical doctors and nurses helping young Haiti earthquake victims. They are with the non-profit Operation Rainbow.

"We have been able to identify the extremely badly injured patients and help to evacuate them out through the U.S. military to the U.S.S. Comfort and other sites," Atkin said.

The Operation Rainbow team is in a hospital in Jimani, in the Dominican Republic, on the border of Haiti.

The camps are where quake survivors are dangerous and dirty, not a place for children with injuries and at risk of disease and infections.

"Working toward not only getting them the right medical and surgical treatment, but start working on disposition, where are they going to go afterwards, who are the caregivers, how are we going to get these folks more permanent situations," Makely said.

This is the third team from Operation Rainbow to arrive since the 7.0 quake hit Jan. 12.

"We are revising amputations, providing crutches and rehabilitation," Atkin said.

Now the team has X-ray capabilities, which allows them to provide more sophisticated surgeries and reset broken bones properly, instead of guessing where the fractures are.

"We are really concerned when people have lower extremity injuries that don't allow them to walk," Atkin said.

ABC7 first met Atkin and Makely the day before they left San Francisco. Makely has three young daughters, but one of her Haitian patients sort of adopted her.

"I have a little 10-year-old girl here, I've taken on as my pal, got her surgery, got her up on crutches, located mommy and turned her back over to her real momma," Makely said.

"There is enormous amount of suffering, but overall we're impressed with the resiliency of the Haitian people," Atkin said.

If you start a drive for Operation Rainbow, please contact Linda Zanides at linda@zanidespr.com so she can let you know where to take the donated medical supplies.