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Three Baystate medical missionaries bring their expertise in anesthesia to grateful citizens of Dame Marie

November 09, 2015
MDs in Haiti

From their first case, a stat c-section in the middle of their first night in town to the last case, another c-section on the last afternoon, three Baystate Medical Center certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) were “cool, calm and collected” during a recent surgical mission to Dame Marie, a remote fishing village on the western-most tip of Haiti.

“Despite long and difficult travel, harsh living conditions, and a ‘third-world-style’ healthcare setting, Katie, Joel and Sarah were up to the task of delivering first-world anesthesia care to the grateful citizens of Dame Marie,” said Denise Bolduc CRNA from Hartford Hospital.

Bolduc, who organized the trip through Medical Aid To Haiti and was chief nurse anesthetist while at Dame Marie, was referring to Sarah Schilling, Kathleen Monahan and Joel Nevejans from the Department of Anesthesia, who spent eight days in Haiti on the healing mission.

It was Schilling’s first time on a medical mission.

“I’ve always wanted to participate in something like this, and the trip coordinated with my work schedule because I had planned to take the week off. So, it seemed like a calling for me,” she said.

Schilling noted they assisted on hysterectomies, hernia repairs, mastectomies and more in what was referred to as a hospital, but appeared to her more like a clinic, where surgeries are only performed during medical missions

“We were working with less than we are used to in the operating rooms here at Baystate. But, once you got through that first operation, you realized that you could adapt and still provide quality anesthesia without all the extras,” said Schilling.

“It was an eye-opening experience and nice to see the gratitude on the faces of our patients. It felt like you really did something,” she added.

About our three nurses anesthetists, Bolduc wrote:

“Katie handled the first c-section with skill and compassion. She was collected and unfazed despite the team not having a ‘test-drive’ with our set-up prior to this emergency. She also handled a particularly challenging case with calm competence. She was consistently flexible and even assisted the team by circulating in the OR when the need arose.”

“Joel, in addition to being a work horse for anesthesia, aided the team by being a ‘MacGyver’ to fix and create items needed by the team despite limited resources. As one of the few men on the trip, he was kind and gracious enough to escort the female members of the team through the questionably safe streets of town whenever he was asked to do so.”

“Sarah attended to her anesthesia job with quiet confidence. She was always available to do what needed to be done in all departments, without waiting to be asked. Her quick smile brightened the day, not only for the team, but for the locals.”

In a letter to the hospital, Bolduc wrote: “Baystate is very lucky to have these excellent individuals on staff, and I am honored to be their colleague in the profession of nurse anesthesia.”

Dr. Michael Bailin, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Baystate, agrees.

“Anesthetists Schilling, Monahan, and Nevejans are truly experts and incredible team members. To hear they are superb, marvelous, ambassadorial, all about quality and safety, is highly consistent with their superior performance here. It is hard to imagine functioning at such an incredible level without all the ultra-modern equipment that surrounds them every day here in Massachusetts. That’s probably because the critical key ingredients they carry with them – their experience, braininess, talent, and inner kindheartedness and empathy for all with needs,” he responded to Bolduc.