Not for the faint of heart

But knowing she makes a difference is enough for Katrina Hurley

Katrina Hurley is an emergency room doctor at the IWK Health Centre who has travelled with Team Broken Earth on two missions to Haiti, and says that the experience changed her.

The resources in Haiti are scarce and there are times there’s little anyone can do to help, she says. Hurley recalls one man who came in with stomach pain and died less than an hour later, before they had time to complete the blood matching. On another occasion, a resident personally donated blood to a 14-year-old gunshot victim in a desperate attempt to save his life. When she left Haiti, the patient was on the way to making a recovery, but “we have no way of knowing if a patient survives after we leave.”

KatrinaHurleyThe stories keep coming. Hurley describes a toddler who arrived at the hospital so dehydrated that it wasn’t possible to get an IV started. It had to be inserted into his tibia. “His eyes were sunken in . . . I’ll probably never see that type of dehydration again,” she says. “We have a very healthy population of children in Canada. In Haiti I saw the sickest children I’ve ever seen in my career.”

For volunteers it’s non-stop. As fast as they treat one person, there’s another waiting for help. And it’s not possible to predict what they’ll see on any given day. The two trips Hurley made were vastly different in terms of the types of patients they treated. On the first trip it was mostly children, but on the second trip there seemed to be a lot of adult trauma victim, she says.

Hurley encourages other medical professionals to get involved with Team Broken Earth, but cautions people to consider all aspects of such a trip. Family issues, time from work, and financial considerations need to be factored in so things run as smoothly as possible in your absence.

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