Atlanta-based orthopedic team heads to Haiti

Over the years, Dr. Stephen McCollam has made numerous medical missions to the Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti.

Now he's going back to help earthquake victims.

McCollam, an Atlanta orthopedic surgeon who specializes in injuries to the hand and upper extremities, is going as part of six-person medical relief team that includes two other orthopedic surgeons, an anesthesiologist and nurses. The team will fly out Jan. 20, taking with them donated medical equipment, medication and supplies, said McCollam.

Piedmont Healthcare is reimbursing all transportation costs, estimated at $10,000, and providing nearly $3,000 in medical supplies, including tetanus vaccine, antibiotics, analgesics and anesthesia.

McCollam said when he saw the extent of the quake's damage, he "knew that it couldn't be good" at the hospital, which is located about 40 miles outside Port-au-Prince. His Atlanta-based practice, Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic, has a long-standing relationship with the hospital, dating back more than five decades.

Although the hospital wasn't damaged, other medical facilities in or near the quake's epicenter were destroyed or heavily damaged.

About 24 hours after the quake, McCollam, who practices at Piedmont Hospital, received an e-mail from the hospital director who said they were becoming rapidly overwhelmed with earthquake victims.

"It's one of the largest and best hospitals left standing," McCollam said. "They're getting patients that general surgeons can't handle. They're getting busloads of patients being dropped off on their doorstep."

He said hospital officials have reported there are scores of injuries to the spine and extremities that need immediate surgery and "more are coming in every day."

The quake toppled houses and building, burying some victims in rubble for days. Doctors expect to see "crushing" injuries, where there may be multiple bone fractures but also extensive soft tissue damage as well, which can make surgery extremely difficult if not impossible.

Reports indicate some doctors have been forced to perform surgery without anesthesia and there is little or no pain medication available.

"It breaks my heart," said McCollam. "I've driven down many of those streets in Port-au-Prince. To see the carnage and chaos, it's just another terrible injury to the people of Haiti that they just don't need."

He said there will likely be other orthopedic missions to follow.

Dr. Douglas Lundy, an orthopedic traumatologist from WellStar Health System and Resurgens Orthopaedics in Marietta, is also going. Lundy has been on mission trips to Kosovo, Thailand, Kenya and Mongolia.

Some of the supplies he planned to take on an upcoming trip to Kenya, will now be diverted to Haiti. Lundy said he will rely heavily on his faith to get him through the next few days.

"That's the way I work," he said. "I realize that God has a plan for everything that has happened and we have many people praying for us as we go."

Also scheduled to go on the relief mission are: Dr. Lee Kelley, an orthopaedic surgeon; Dr. Marcel Gilli, an anesthesiologist; Rick Hodge, a surgical orthopaedic nurse; and Deborah Shreer, a surgical orthopaedic nurse.