On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, an international team of burn surgeons led by medical professionals from Israel’s National Burn Center and the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response at Sheba Medical Center set up the first pediatric laser to treat disfiguring burn scars in children at Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, Haiti.
Thirty surgeons, nurses and therapists from six Haitian and Dominican Republic hospitals were trained to use this and other state-of-the-art techniques for treating pediatric burns.
The local healthcare providers also observed as the visiting surgeons performed 10 successful laser surgeries on young patients with life-altering burn scars.
About 80 percent of pediatric burns in Haiti are caused by rechauds, open-flame stoves that many Haitians use to cook their food.
The Israeli doctors were confronted by several difficult cases. One case was a 27-year-old pregnant woman who had fallen into a cooking fire after suffering a seizure. Second-degree burns on her eyelids and mouth were causing her to go blind and left her unable to eat for months.
The team from Sheba Medical Center, assisted by their Haitian colleagues, examined her and decided, despite the risks, to perform emergency surgery that saved the lives of the woman and her baby.
The mission was sponsored by US-based Burn Advocates Network, a nonprofit that last year established the I-PEARLS (Israel Pediatric Aesthetic and Reconstructive Laser Surgery) Center of Excellence at Sheba under the direction of world-renowned burn specialists Josef Haik and Arie Orenstein. The center uses Israeli-developed carbon dioxide (CO2) ablative lasers to safely and effectively reduce the devastating impact of scars in burned children.