HERO in Grenada in December

by John Crow

HERO is back in Grenada 4-7 December. Dr John E Mitchell, General/Trauma Surgeon, and president of Health and Educational Relief Organisation Incorporated (HERO), heads-up an all-star medical team coming to Grenada’s General Hospital.

While in Grenada, they plan to implant fistula access valves via vascular operations to an additional seven patients, free of charge. The HERO team will do follow-ups on previous operations done in August of 2018, during their inaugural visit. Alongside Dr Mitchell, will be HERO’s Vice President, Dr Claude Scott. He is a Paediatric Orthopedic Surgeon who worked for the last 20 years with HERO, doing similar missions to Guyana.

Other members on the team are: Dr Marcus D’Ayla, Vascular Surgeon; Dr Adil Kabeer, Plastic Surgeon; Angelina Welsh-Mitchell, Vascular Sonographer; Maria Mitchell, RN, Recovery Room Nurse; Natasha Johnson, RN, Operating Room (OR) Nurse; Ricki Aguila, Certified Registered Nurse Anastasias (CRNA).

One of the sweet spots in this visit is the presence of a Grenadian-born nurse as one of the volunteers. Maria Mitchell, RN, is the recovery room nurse on the team. Nurse Mitchell has extensive years of experience in the recovery room at Brooklyn Hospital. Operations are scheduled for two days, 5-6 December.

“Our goal is to conduct follow up, and new procedures for patients with kidney failure requiring dialysis,” said Dr Mitchell. “In addition, we hope to conduct clinics in paediatric orthopaedics and plastic surgery.”

Dr Mitchell stated that the paediatric clinic is for children and their parents, with lower leg deformities (club foot, etcetera). Plastic surgery clinic is for women who may need breast reconstruction after having their breast removed due to cancer.

“We would also see women with breast enlargement who may need reduction due to back pain as a result,” Mitchell explained. “Children with cleft lip/palate would also be seen.”

The cleft lip/palate operation is something new that the HERO team is bringing to Grenada for the first time. They have had tremendous successes in Guyana where they have done several such surgeries. According to Dr Mitchell, Dr Kabeer is one of the best at reconstructive surgeries. This reporter has seen before and after photos of their work. From a layman’s point of view, Drs. Mitchell, Scott and Kabeer do remarkable work.

One of the mission’s chief organisers, let’s call her “GeeGee” (she asked not to use her real name), “GeeGee” said that those patients seen during the clinic visits are only for assessment. After the assessments are made, the doctors will determine which patients qualify for surgery. Necessary procedures will be done on HERO’s return to Grenada in 2020.

Built into this visit are “teach-in” workshops. Selected members of the team will conduct educational sessions for local medical staff members. According to “GeeGee,” this is part of the package that HERO brings to the table at no cost to Grenada. For HERO it’s part of their mission.

One very excited individual and fan of HERO’s programme is Sister Janet Harris. She is a former supervising nurse and fistula implant patient who worked her way up the chain to become a quintessential medical professional. She was one of the patients who was operated on and nursed during HERO’s first visit in August of 2018.

Harris heaped praises on the doctors and staff “for a job well done,” she said. While acknowledging the entire team, Nurse Harris singled out Erica L Mitchell, MD, Vascular & Endovascular Surgeon, Professor of Surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, for the job she did with the 42-year veteran. Harris retired from active duty since 2009.

“It was a very good experience,” Nurse Harris said. “I have no problems with my implant. I am glad to know that they are coming back.”

Harris who has been living with the implant for about one year now, shared some uplifting words for the team. even upon learning that Dr Erica Mitchell was not on this mission, this time. After Harris mentioned how supportive her daughter is, and how expensive dialysis is for her and others in Grenada, to receive dialysis at least twice-a-week, Nurse Harris said, “On behalf of all the patients, I have to thank your team for coming to Grenada and doing these implants. We could not afford it. They did a marvellous job. God sent you all. I want to extend my personal gratitude,” conversationalist Harris continued. “There are not many people like that, nowadays. I am alive today because of my knowledge, my education, my expertise and this surgery. In Grenada, we are seeing real trouble. We are seeing hell. If you doe have money; you die!”

HERO’S medical mission is backed and supported by Grenada’s Ministry of Health and the administration at the General Hospital.

HERO is a charitable organisation based in the United States. The organisation is made up of medical personnel, volunteers, and students from the US and many Caribbean countries. HERO conducts medical missions to Guyana, twice a year, providing free medical services to impoverished communities. This is HERO’s second official visit to Grenada doing the same. Members and all volunteers are required to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses when they venture on these missions. All HERO’s work is on a volunteer basis, offered free to the public.

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