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Shriners Hospital, Baystate Medical Center treat Haitian children

Date: 2/15/2010

Feb. 15, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD - Area medical institutions have teamed up to help a group of eight children from Haiti.

At a press conference Thursday conducted at the Shriners Hospital for Children (SHC), Administrator Mark Niederpruem described the collaborative approach that brought two girls and three boys to SHC, one girl to Baystate Medical Center and another boy and girl to the Shriners Hospital in Boston.

Niederpruem explained that Dr. Jill Griffins, an emergency room doctor at Mercy Medical Center, was in Haiti as a volunteer and saw children who needed the orthopedic care in which SHC specializes. She contacted SHC, and Dr. Ian Goodman, an emergency room fellow at Baystate Medical Center, traveled to Haiti to identify prospective patients and work with the international mission organization Global Outreach to transport them to Springfield.

Niederpruem said transportation was made possible by an anonymous donor who made a 22-seat private jet available for the humanitarian use.

In Springfield, Dr. Joeli Hettler, an emergency room physician, recruited local resources and worked with the Noel Group in Wisconsin, which worked with immigration officials to make the entry of the children into the United States possible, Niederpruem explained.

He called the effort to transport the children into the United States on short notice "monumental."

After a four-hour flight, the children arrived in this country and were transported by Baystate Health Ambulance to SHC on Wednesday.

Dr. David Drvaric, the chief of staff at SHC, said all of the children have undergone operations and multiple procedures to address their conditions. He reported they are all in stable condition and their length of stay at SHC would be determined by their individual conditions.

Niederpruem said after their recovery SHC would work with Voice for International Development and Adoptions in placing the children with foster parents until they can be returned to their families.

Accompanying the medical personnel to Haiti were Haitian students from American International College (AIC) who acted as translators.

Drvaric said the first words from the children upon their arrival were "It's cold."

Goodman said the work being done by volunteer medical personnel from Mercy Medical Center in Haiti was "absolutely incredible." The reason to transport these children to United States, though, was required by their need for "consistent wound care and sterile environments" that are difficult to find right now in Haiti.

Goodman said that all of the children lost family members in the earthquake and that all of them still have family members awaiting their return.

Of the flight back to New England, Goodman said he imagined the children were initially terrified. Having the students from AIC to translate allayed some of their fears as well as having movies in French for the children to watch on the flight.

In response to the question if more children from Haiti could be brought to Springfield hospitals for treatment, Goodman said, "I can only hope so."

Drvaric added, "It is our hope as well."