By the fifth day of our mission, we have developed a steady rhythm to each day. Breakfast before sunrise, a quiet bus ride through the sleepy streets of Santo Domingo, team rounds as daylight breaks through patient rooms and full steam ahead as the operating rooms start at 7:30AM.
The logistics of efficiently running multiple operating rooms for multiple days in a foreign country is no small feat. In the thirty minutes between one patient leaving an operating room and another entering, the room must be disinfected, new disposable equipment set up and reusable sterile equipment unpacked. Undoubtedly, surgeons request equipment as an operation is underway that must be readily available and expeditiously retrieved by operating room staff.
Paul Laemmle (OR coordinator) and Debbie Pitts (Cargo Coordinator) spearheaded the task of organizing equipment and planning personnel assignments months in advance. This required a large-scale cargo shipment in January and establishing a temporary supply room in the operating wing. In addition to the physical materials required for each operation, intra-operative medications must be compounded, measured and distributed by our pharmacists, led by Anne McDonnell.
At 4:00pm, our last patient receiving surgery on this year’s mission was wheeled back to the floor after recovering from anesthesia. After managing all of the material required to replace more than 50 joints over the last few days, our operating room volunteers can breathe a little easier and take a well-deserved night off before planning for the return journey.