BC Beat

The Doctors offer help and hope in Haiti

2/04/2010 06:43:45 PM

Daytime TV is mostly known for its pettiness. A man and a woman go on Judge Judy and fight over who should be making the car payments. A man and his baby mama fight over a child’s paternity on Maury. Celebrities bemoan their battles with weight-loss or addiction or both on Oprah.

But there are some moments when daytime TV shines.

On Friday, Jan. 29, and Tuesday, Feb. 2, CBS Television Distribution’s The Doctors aired two episodes shot when the show’s team of four medical experts — host and emergency-room physician Dr. Travis Stork, pediatrician Dr. James Sears, OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon – headed down to Haiti to help out after a devastating earthquake struck the country on Jan. 12.

Travis in Haiti

“I wanted to go to Haiti from the beginning because this is what I do,” says Stork (pictured left in center). “The mission was first and foremost to get down to Haiti and help out in any way possible as a doctor. We weren’t going down to be a news organization to report on the earthquake.”

Joining the doctors were the show’s executive producer Jay McGraw and his brother Jordan. The group brought 7,000 pounds of medical supplies with them, including everything from bandages, antibiotics, anti-infectives, basic first aid ointments, sanitizers and instruments., all donated from such organizations as Medical Assistance Programs International, Med Wish International, Intelligent First Aid, More Prepared, Biotex Laboratory Services, Plantation General Hospital & Westside Regional Medical Center (part of the Hospital Corporation of America) and other groups.

“If we were going to go, I wanted to make the biggest impact possible and take as many medical supplies as we could,” says Jay McGraw. “It was a full-time job for our entire staff from basically right after the earthquake happened.”

Everything about the trip was difficult, from the logistics of getting to Port au Prince to the experience of actually being there, says Stork. To get to Haiti, the group had to fly to Miami from Los Angeles and then charter a plane down to the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti. Getting to Port au Prince required the team to take a 12-hour bus ride through the jungle, as well as rent box trucks to bring along all the donated supplies.

“It’s a good example of why they are so short on supplies,” says McGraw.

Once they got to the city, they managed to find lodging in a hotel near the air strip that had not crumbled and actually had running water. The team – most of who live and work in tony L.A. neighborhoods — had brought camping gear, so some set up tents.

It didn’t take long for the doctors to find people in need. “We got down there and our plans completely changed because we heard of an orphanage that had no medical supplies or doctors,” says Stork.

Dr. Sears helps a Haitian child

The Doctors’ Web site is hosting several videos from the team’s trip to Haiti, and the doctors’ duress over the Haitian state of affairs is obvious. In one video, Dr. James Sears, a pediatrician and a parent, looks up at the collapsed orphanage, where both kids and staff perished, and thinks of his own children. “I’m just trying to imagine if it was my kids in one of these schools and I’m trying to imagine digging through this to try to find them,” says Sears. “I just can’t comprehend what that would feel like as a parent.”

The huge problem for many Haitian children is that not only have they been seriously injured, they suddenly find themselves orphans. In the above photo, Dr. Ordon operates on an injured child.

“I was not prepared to see small children with such injuries to their legs that they were being prepared for amputations, and they are screaming for their parents but both parents have been killed,” says Stork. “In America, we have a much better social support network. When people get really sick or severely injured, we bring them to a level-one trauma center and they get the best care imaginable. If they have difficult social circumstances, we have social workers to help figure everything out. In Haiti right now, we have kids without families who aren’t even old enough to tell you their name and no one will ever know who their parents were. It’s so different and unimaginable for that scenario to ever happen in this country.”

The doctors found many such cases in their short four-day stay in Haiti, and they found themselves providing all sorts of care, regardless of their specialty. “You might be a neurosurgeon, but in Haiti, you’re cleaning out leg wounds,” says Stork.

Going forward, The Doctors continues to work to raise money to support international aid organizations in Haiti. Donations for such organizations as the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders are still being accepted on The Doctors’ Web site. “The situation is becoming desperate and it’s going to get worse and worse as time goes by,” says Sears in one video. “There’s just no easy solution to this.”

“This has created a new passion for me,” says Stork. “I’ve trained in emergency medicine but I’ve never seen a disaster of this scale. It’s the type of experience that changes you forever.”