2 injured Haitians treated in Chicago

January 28, 2010 2:24:38 PM PST
Two victims seriously injured in the Haiti quake are in Chicago for medical treatment. They were flown into Midway Airport Thursday morning and are being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.Northfield orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Dan Ivankovich, treated the patients in Haiti. Recalling the moment when he explained to them that they would have to come to the United States for treatment, Dr. Ivankovich said Thursday he joked with them saying, "the good news is we're going to get you the treatment you need. The bad news is we're taking you to Chicago in January."

"I'm emotionally drained...wow, I haven't slept a whole lot in eight days," said Dr. Ivankovich.

Dr. Ivankovich struggled to keep it together at a news conference Thursday morning. It marked the end of a road that started several days ago in Haiti and came to an end Thursday when a private plane carrying him and two injured Haitians touched down on the ground in Chicago's Midway Airport.

"These were my two patients that I made a connection with, but we were doing the lifts in the middle of the night. It was like being on the dark side of Mars. I was on a flatbed with no road, patients piled in the back. We just did it," said Dr. Ivankovich.

Suy Bazeleis, 28, and Josette Delisca, 52, were both paralyzed when the earthquake struck. They languished in one of Haiti's tent hospitals for days until aide worker Dr. Colleen O'Connell found them and realized the extent of their injuries.

"The only option for these patients to survive is to be evacuated to centers like this so they can get the interventions needed, early acute rehabilitation, so that we can then transition them back to Haiti with their families in their own environment and rebuild their country."

It took just two days to arrange what would ordinarily take weeks. The paperwork was approved, a plane secured and a hospital found to take care of the Haitians.

The doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Thursday morning were not wasting any time diagnosing most of what will need to be done within hours.

"They are both stable. The imaging has show that one is going to require surgery within the next two or three days and the other patient is still getting more studies, to determine what needs to be done," said Dr. Hunt Batjer, chair of neurosurgery, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Once the surgeries are performed, the patients will receive therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. But as you heard this will just be for the acute phase of their recovery. USAID and other agencies are working hard to have a rehab center set up in Haiti within a few weeks and that's where they hope both the patients will be able to return to soon if all goes well.