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Ecuador is a beautiful country and yet one of immense contrasts, where a visitor can stand in the middle of an impoverished village and see the breathtaking view of palm trees and the blue ocean in the background. The best word to describe Ecuador is “disparity”, said Tina Lisman, Physician Assistant with Princeton Brain and Spine, who spent a week in June in Guayaquil, Ecuador on a mission.
Ms. Lisman, who has worked as a Physician Assistant with Princeton Brain and Spine Care for the past two years, traveled to Ecuador as a member of Community Cares for Kids. This is an organization that helps those that cannot help them. It is an all volunteer organization and 100% of the monies raised go to the mission. The organization performs surgeries on cleft palates, facial deformities, double digits and web-digits.
This year 29 volunteers went and the group included doctors, nurses, students, a physician assistant, and anesthetists. The physicians who went were plastic surgeons, an orthopaedic surgeon, a podiatrist and a pediatrician. Ms. Lisman noted that the team got up at 6:30 AM, had breakfast at 7, was transported to the naval hospital at 7:30 AM, and worked straight through lunch. She said that you did not eat the food in the hospital due to safety and sanitary reasons. If you left the OR, you had to change your clothes, so that was time consuming.
The team did not leave until the last patient left the PACU, so that meant that the typical day often ended at 10:30 at night. There were 4 surgeons performing surgeries in 4 rooms that were running all the time.
When asked about the OR equipment, Ms. Lisman stated that it was very old. The OR beds were ancient, and they had none of our technology, just the basics.
Tina said that it was such an emotional experience to watch the parents and children lining up and asking if you would do or could do the surgery. When asked how children were chosen for surgery, Tina said the physician, surgeon, pediatrician and anesthetist would hold a discussion after examining the child. “If we could honestly help them and not put them in any danger, then that was the child we would operate on.”
There was no such thing as old records. The only thing was a manila folder which the parents had in their hands. Sometimes parents did not tell the truth about the health of their child, because we were the only hope they had. Some of the reasons for turning children away were for cardiac conditions, cases that could not be taken care of within one week as follow up would be virtually non-existent.
Tina recounted the story of one little girl who had hydrocephalus, was going blind and had web feet. A decision was made to perform surgery on her web feet because it would give her the means to perhaps become self-sufficient. Tina explained why so many children have so many deformities. She said that the number one reason was that they have no pre-natal care and no medical care. Also, the culture is such that they do not like marrying outsiders. They are short in stature, so the babies do not have enough room to grow in utero. Women are not educated enough, and they keep having babies with deformities.
When asked if she would go back, Tina said “in a heart beat.” She has already signed up for future annual missions to Ecuador. We asked Tina what lesson she brings back from such a mission. She just said, “Be grateful for every little thing we have because we have so much.”
LastUpdate: 2016-08-28 10:33:56