California-based Operation Rainbow has been sending medical teams to impoverished Latin American and Caribbean countries for more than 20 years. This past June (2012) was the first time two Israeli doctors joined one of the charitable organization’s missions, by invitation of one of the top US physicians in this specialty.
Dr. Mark Eidelman, director of the pediatric orthopedic department at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus, and Emek Medical Center senior orthopedic surgeon Dr. Noam Bor, were hand-picked for a mission to the southern Ecuadoran city of Loja in June. Over the course of four 14-hour days, they treated 33 young patients from neighboring villages.
Eidelman with a patient after surgery. Photo courtesy of RHCC
By comparison, surgeons at Rambam -- northern Israel’s largest hospital -- perform five to 10 pediatric orthopedic surgeries every week.
Aside from a Colombian surgical fellow who also helped translate, the two Israelis were the only members of the 22-person team who were not from the United States. They were chosen by team leader Dr. John Herzenberg, a noted pediatric orthopedist at Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, under whose supervision each completed a fellowship in the past.
“It worked out very well. Our team was thrilled and the local doctors were thrilled,” says Operation Rainbow director Laura Escobosa. “This was the second time we’ve been to this particular hospital, and we like it because it’s an academic hospital where we can do a lot of teaching through lectures and practicals.”
Tons of medical equipment
Eidelman gave three lectures at one of two local university medical schools in the city of 165,000 people, and he did much more hands-on training while performing 13 surgeries.
“In Ecuador there are not many pediatric orthopedic surgeons, and in Loja there are none, so I taught local doctors,” he says.
Out of about 350 potential patients requesting treatment from the visiting physicians, doctors at the hospital chose 75 particularly serious cases. The 33 resulting surgeries were done on adults and children as young as five months old.
Seven of the operations he performed were to correct dislocated hips left untreated for years – a serious problem Eidelman has no opportunity to see in Israel, where medical care is more advanced.
Despite a grueling 27-hour trip each way, involving several stops and a four-hour bus ride, Eidelman says he was not hesitant to join the mission and would do it again. “For professional experience, I will go to any spot where they invite me,” he says. ”It was very good emotionally and professionally.”
Dr. Noam Bor of Afula’s Emek Medical Center.
Photo courtesy of Emek Medical Center
The team of doctors, nurses and physical therapists also brought along two-and-a-half tons of medical equipment on behalf of Operation Rainbow, which Esobosa explains is a privately supported charity with no religious or political agenda.