March 2010 Ethical Hero – Dr. William Gallivan

Published: March 12, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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Dr. William GallivanIt began with a phone call.

The assistant to my orthopedist asked to change my scheduled appointment.  The reason, “Bill’s detoured his vacation to spend time in Haiti, Jim and help those who are in need of medical help.”

After speaking with Bill, he shared the following report –

“At twilight on Jan 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake lasting about 40 seconds devastated Haiti.
“I was very fortunate to be invited to travel and operate with a medical/surgical team based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (all Saints fans, of course!!)  We flew into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Jan 25, 2010.

“Our flight was followed by an interesting 7 hour bus trip to a small town called Jimani – a town very near to the Haitian border.  There we worked at Buon Samaritano (Good Samaritan) Hospital which was a converted missionary eye hospital and orphanage.  This 2 operating room hospital was converted to a 5 operating room hospital and over 500 operations were performed here between 1/17/10 and 2/1/10.  Many injuries were severe requiring amputations, fracture fixation, and wound management.  We finally received an x-ray machine three days into my trip – on Jan. 28  (It was like Christmas morning!!)  This addition made fracture management much less challenging!

“On Friday, Jan. 29, part of the medical team and I were able to accompany missionaries on a bus ride into Port au Prince to deliver supplies and food to an orphanage.  The destruction we witnessed in the city was overwhelming!

“During my stay in Jimani we felt many aftershocks.  One of the aftershocks in our camp sent two terrified Haitian people jumping off a second floor balcony. Only one survived.

“Many days were spent advocating for our patients.  Some patients (several of them young children) required more advanced care than we could provide in our makeshift surgery center.  After numerous phone calls and wading through ‘politics’ we were able to transfer more than 35 critical patients by US military helicopters to several sites with higher level care capabilities.

“On my last day there, hope was kindled by the birth of healthy twins – a boy and a girl – in our operating room.  The symbolism of these births and new lives after all the death and destruction inspired the staff and patients alike.

“The Haitian people – 80% who are Catholic often combined with voodoo – demonstrated great faith and spirit.  The suffering that occurred following the earthquake was unimaginable.  My group arrived 13 days after the earthquake and I was amazed to be greeted by many smiling faces.  Singing and laughing were displacing the tears.

“These people inspired me.

“While the world has responded with incredible generosity, there is much more that is needed.  The magnitude of need for orthopedic surgical follow up, physical therapy, and prosthetic fitting will require great sustained efforts for a minimum of two more years.

“I am hopeful that five years from now, Haiti and its citizens, under the watchful eyes of the world, will be better off than its pre-earthquake status.  The rebuilding must be done by higher standards to avoid a repeat of this catastrophe.

“I have been personally blessed by this experience. I made many good, new friends and was grateful to be able to use my gifts to make a difference in the lives of those we served.

“I am deeply thankful for the physicians, nurses, and physical therapists from Louisiana who kept a positive outlook.  (Those Saints deserved to win the Superbowl!!)  And, I am grateful to my wonderful family and friends for all of their support.  Thank you!!”

No, thank YOU Bill and the many more doctors, nurses, health care and logistical experts who volunteered their time and talent to help the Haitian people.


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