Legacy of Healing is a non-profit organization based in Denver, but most of the members are from Dayton, Ohio. My connection to the group goes to the days that I lived in Dayton while I was an attending plastic surgeon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The 50 individuals on this trip brought a wide variety of skills as well as a great knack to work together in adverse conditions) to form cohesive medical, surgical, and community outreach teams.
In days 5 and 6 we continued to perform a large volume and variety of surgical procedures. By the end, we had completed over 185 procedures. While we were busy operating, the “clinic” team was in the community at schools performing primary care and basic dentistry. The primary care team treated over 850 patients during the week and the oral surgeon treated over 100 patients. With the clinic team, an additional group provided health education to scores of children. The clinic personnel were working in areas of severe poverty and squalor. I think that the clinic teams were remarkable in their ability to adapt and provide services in such an austere and even troubling environment.
However, even in the severe environment humanism prevailed. At the end of one work day the clinic team had a chance to play baseball with the children. Baseball is by far the most beloved sport in the Dominican Republic and everyone had great fun playing. Resources were scarce even in this setting- the baseball game was played with a broken round toy as the ball and a stick for the bat.
On day five, a land mark event for Legacy of Healing occurred. This day marked the opening of a water project that would provide clean water to a school. This project was developed and completed in conjunction with an international relief organization that specializes in bringing sustainable water to improvised communities. Clean and abundant water is something we take for granted. It is essential for every human’s survival, but over 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water. The water project from our group will provide clean water to a school and surrounding community for the next ten years.
The patients in the hospital were receptive and grateful for our efforts. Many smiles and handshakes were exchanged. For many of the patients, their surgical problems would have never been treated in the local medical facilities, so our team provided a once in a lifetime opportunity for treatment for some Dominicans.
In the afternoon on day 6, we packed and departed. Just as we set-up in hours at the beginning of the week, within hours our physical presence was essentially erased from the hospital. It is a sobering concept to me that as we prepared to return to the privileged life we live in the U.S., the people in the community we left remain faced with enormous challenges just to subsist. However, I find solace and gratification knowing that the Legacy of Healing group made a positive impact on the lives of the people we touched.