LUMBERTON — Dr. David Dalsimer was looking for a way to give back, a way to use his skills and education to aid those in need. Dalsimer found his mission among one of the most disenfranchised individuals on the planet — and changed the lives of dozens of them.
Dalsimer, an orthopedic surgeon with Southern Orthopedics in Lumberton, recently spent eight days in the Dominican Republic, where he gave urgen medical care to a group of historically displaced Haitians, who only receive medical treatment two weeks out of the year.
“I saw machete injuries, burns, tumors, hernias,” Dalsimer said. “Things that people had been waiting a year to get taken care of.”
In conditions without running water, electricity only from generators, little reliable transportation, and no medical facilities, Dalsimer performed 38 surgeries in just over a week, from repairing fractures to treating infections, burns and removing foreign objects, such as shards of glass and metal.
Dalsimer traveled with one other surgeon, two family doctors, five nurse practitioners, student doctors and students interested in medicine. The trip was put together by Canadian-based Medical Ministry International.
Founded in 1968, the ministry works in more than 27 countries around the world. In 2014 it claims to have provided health care services worth more than $177 million to 668,475 people throughout the world who typically would have had limited or no access to that care.
“I searched for a medical mission trip. One where I didn’t have to travel too far. My search came up with this company,” Dalsimer said. “A colleague of mine had gone on a similar trip, but she went to a much bigger city with much better facilities, and a nice hotel.”
Though a tough working and living environment faced the team, they found the people to be most hospitable.
“It was pretty exhausting as the days go by,” he said. “The noise of motorcycles, of roosters. but the food was wonderful, very ethnic food. We had two local cooks.
“The facilities weren’t too nice,” Dalsimer said. “There is no running water — you bathe in rain water. The only electricity is that which we produce with generators 10 to 6 every day, and then darkness. As far as medical supplies, anything they can get, we bring. Whatever you give them, that is what they are going to get.”
While the unit performed dozens of surgeries, a sterile environment was near impossible to maintain.
“Insects, even once a gecko, will come into sterile field,” he said.
Dalismer said that Haitians came to the Dominican Republic generations ago to farm sugar cane. After their land was destroyed by other local factions, they could not farm and could not afford to return to Haiti. In the meantime, the Dominican Republican has become their home — albeit one that won’t let them into their national health care system.
Despite the conditions, Dalsimer gained a great deal from the experience.
“It was a really pleasurable experience to be able to give back and use the skills that God gave me to give back,” he said. “I plan to do this again in the future, it is definitely something I am going to continue to pursue.”
Dalsimer has gained new perspective upon his return.
“I think that anybody can tell you, we take too much for granted here in the United States and we expect a level of medical care that is a wonderful luxury,” he said. “We don’t understand how much the rest of the world is suffering. People are incredibly resilient.”
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @MikeGellatly