Tuesday, February 23, 2010

State-of-the-Art Scanner Helps Diagnose Haitian Toddler

Project HOPE volunteer Stephen Hickey, retired Air Force, a certified CT and MRI technologist working at Massachusetts General Hospital, describes his first few days in Haiti, from arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince to his experiences working with the CT scanner aboard the Comfort.

Wed., Feb. 17
OMG, the 20 or so mile drive to the water [from the airport] was so unbelievable that there are no words to describe how quiet all of us became as we saw the destruction from the quake…You can’t really grasp what has happened to these poor people until you actually drive down through a city made completely out of nothing but sheets and cardboard boxes…families huddled together with blank expressions on their faces and how they were all staring at our shuttle bus… At night as far as the eye can see are thousands of candles lit from all of the villages because the only power is produced by generators which only the lucky few can take advantage of.

[Aboard the Comfort] I will be doing Cat scan on the most state of art 64 slice-CT scanner which was rumored to be the only functioning scanner in all of Haiti…Our entire Project HOPE group have somewhat become a close knit family in such a small amount of time…Everyone really has the desire the help this country in every way possible…So far I have been introduced to about 17 other Navy diagnostic imaging techs, 2 ultrasound techs and 2 great radiologists… The best thing is that you never hear any of us complain…

Friday, Feb. 19
We are notified that a new admission will be arriving shortly via helicopter…It is a 3- year-old Haitian girl that will be requiring a head CT with contrast…She arrives later presenting stroke-like symptoms, fever, possible sickle cell. The nursing staff and doctors bring her down to us via stretcher with mom also on board… The little girl is so frightened and crying and she’s cute as a button…In order for us to acquire quality images we must give her a little sedation so she does not move her head…the meds work fast and she is soon asleep. My co worker Tai Nguyen injects 40ml of CT contrast (a harmless dye injected into the veins) to help highlight any abnormalities...The CT scan was over in minutes and the images showed the radiologist was definitely consistent with sickle cell crisis.

I have to admit that I am learning so many new things and really being challenged for this brief stay here on the Comfort. What makes this all so special is when you see a smile on a child’s face as they leave your department.

Photos by photojournalist and HOPE volunteer, Allison Shelley.

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