Cooper Medical Team Returns Home

February 1, 2010 4:42:49 PM PST
The twenty doctors and nurses from Cooper University Hospital who flew to the Dominican Republic to treat Haitian victims have returned home.

The team received a standing ovation Monday at the hospital for their hard work and selfless mission to treat victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Many on the team say they're happy to be home but leaving was bittersweet.

"Most of the team I think our minds are still racing a bit from what we saw," said team leader Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli.

"When I got home everything was overwhelming because we lived with minimal things and we were okay," registered nurse Nancy Cadet said, adding the devastation and the injuries they saw there were catastrophic.

For nearly two weeks they provided care for hundreds of patients, old and young. They treated for broken bones, wounds and amputations with limited supplies. But they saw positive results.

Dr. Ian Butler said, "The most exciting thing was to see their mortality drop overnight from three patients to zero and stay that way. It was just an amazing experience down there."

And along with doctors treating patients, the Cooper community also collected thousands of crutches and walkers and got them to Haiti. Dr. Mazzarelli said as they left, other medical volunteers took their place and he hopes that will continue because the need in Haiti will continue for months and years, as will the gratitude they saw from the victims struggling.

"Despite the circumstances, 'Merci doctor' was the most common phrase heard from patients," Dr. Mazzarelli said.

Many on the team also said the experience gave them a renewed sense of why they were drawn to medicine in the first place and many hope to return in the future.

Registered nurses Karen Slutsky and Dominic Parone, also from Cooper, travelled with a government team. They also returned over the weekend and were also honored Monday. Slutsky said they started their mission at the embassy in Port-au-Prince. They then travelled to the nearby town of Petionville and set up medical tents there, also working with a very limited supply of medical equipment.

"We had experiences we never imagined," Slutsky said.

She also talked about the Haitian people and said each night as they fell asleep, some of the victims could be heard singing. She said the patients they treated were "stoic in pain and so resilient."

All the volunteers hope other medical teams continue missions to Haiti and that the American people will continue to send support and donations.