By Roberta Neiger, ProText
A senior Rambam orthopedist, Dr Mark Eidelman, recently participated in an international medical delegation to the city of Loja in southern Ecuador. There, delegation doctors treated local patients with various orthopedic problems, some of them severe. Dr Eidelman and another Israeli doctor held a surgical marathon: within four days they performed operations on 33 patients, most of them children from neighboring villages. By way of comparison, surgeons at Rambam, northern Israel’s largest hospital, carry out five to ten pediatric orthopedic surgeries weekly.
Dr Mark Eidelman and a local patient
The delegation acted under the auspices of a voluntary US organization, ‘Operation Rainbow’. The California-based organization sends surgeons to different Latin American countries, to areas lacking medical knowledge, equipment and personnel. Among those on the 22-member delegation were five doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, accompanied by two and a half tons of medical equipment.
Dr Mark Eidelman operating a local patient
According to Dr Mark Eidelman, director of Rambam’s Pediatric Orthopedic Department, the doctors faced a difficult challenge. “The university hospital in Loja, where we performed the operations, publicized our mission about a year ago. Since that time, some 350 candidates requested operations, and doctors at the hospital chose 75 cases that seemed most urgent,” explained Dr Eidelman.
On their first day in Loja, the doctors examined the cases and ranked them according to severity. During the four following days, the delegation doctors performed surgeries and treatments on patients of different ages, with varying problems. “Every day we arrived at the operating room at 7:00 am and finished working at 11:00 at night,” recalls Dr Eidelman. “The pace was insane, but we wanted to treat as many patients as possible.”
Despite the fact that this effort involved orthopedic patients with limited mobility, people covered great distances to receive treatment. “Most of the patients came from villages in a range of 500 kilometers from the hospital, but these people had little choice. What can an eight-year old girl who has waited five years for treatment do if there is no pediatric orthopedist in her region?” said Dr Eidelman.
Patients ranged in age from 65 years to a five months, and Dr Eidelman remembers nearly every case. Though he has returned to Israel, the surgeon’s memories of Ecuador remain vivid. “This was the first time I took part in a delegation like this, and it was an incredible experience. I hope that in the near future I can participate in this crucial effort once again.”