On a mission to make a difference

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Riverview Medical Group orthopaedic surgeon Norman Mindrebo, MD with New Hope Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, his wife Peggy Mindrebo, and Riverview Nurse, Miranda Johnson, recently went on a medical mission trip to Haiti. Here, they reflect on their meaningful venture!

Dr. Norman and Peggy Mindrebo:

Working together in Haiti on short-term trips often brings out the best in healthcare workers. Our most recent trip to Haiti was no exception. We had a wonderful team of caregivers from Riverview, St. Vincent, and IU Health Hospital. Including spouses and teenagers always adds an awesome dimension to the whole experience. We cook together, travel together, and work together through less than ideal circumstances to do some valuable work in a complicated and needy country.

We would love to welcome you all to join up with us on future trips. There was not a teen or spouse, doctor or nurse that was expendable – all were needed. The opportunity to share these medical experiences together has been wonderful. Our recent trip was to a site called, “Double Harvest”.  They provide many crops to Haiti, but also have two O.R. suites, and many valuable relationships that we partner with.

Our group went from repairing equipment, to operating, to feeding 200 children lunch!  As one doctor said, “this trip reminded me of why I went into medicine in the first place”.  Get your passport, get ready, and let’s go together next time!

Miranda Johnson, RN:

Having never been out of the country, let alone to a 3rd world country, I was nervous. Add in the fact that I had no surgical experience and was going to be spending the week with 16 total strangers, and I was terrified. Little did I know it would be an experience of a lifetime.

Our team, composed of 5 physicians along with many other medical and non-medical persons, set off to Haiti ready to help the Haitian people. With us we took 26 suitcases and totes full of needed medical supplies. We had been told that the house physician would be scheduling patients to be seen in the clinic who were possible surgical candidates. However, as word had spread of surgeons in the clinic, patients began lining up in hopes of being seen. Very quickly the OB/GYNs lined up surgeries for the week, having no choice but to turn many away. Orthopedic patients were seen in the clinic daily; some were surgical candidates and taken to the OR while others were seen by our Physical Therapist.

During the course of the week I was given a number of memorable experiences. I was given the opportunity to scrub in surgeries with the OB/GYNs and assist in hysterectomies. Having never experienced the OR, I quickly found out how much I loved it. Watching our team help so many people was an awesome experience. One particular case that stands out is a woman who came in for a hysterectomy. During the surgery she experienced significant bleeding. The way the two surgeons, who had never worked together before, worked together feverishly to control the bleeding was amazing. Once the bleeding was under control the surgery was completed. On the way to the recovery room, the patient went into respiratory distress and stopped breathing. Our team, both those of us who had been with the patient in the OR and those passing through the clinic, quickly came together to save the patient. The patient survived as a direct result our team’s quick actions and ability to work together. Another case that stands out was a young woman who had previously injured her arms leaving her elbows locked at a 90 degree angle. Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mindrebo, took the patient to the OR and, under anesthesia, manipulated her arms breaking up the cartilage. Walking out of the OR, Dr. Mindrebo was concerned wondering if he helped the patient or hurt her further. A short time later, after being called down, Dr Mindrebo walked into the recovery room to the woman sitting up in bed, a huge smile on her face, moving her arms freely.