American Podiatric Medical Association Podiatrists Perform Life-Saving Amputations in Haiti

Limb removal surgery all too common since the disaster hit

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It is chaos here—terrible injuries, people crushed, compartment syndromes—many of which are ending up in amputations. I just assisted on a below-the-knee amputation with an orthopedic surgeon on a 12-year-old girl. It is overwhelming.

Bethesda, MD (Vocus) January 29, 2010

When a devastating earthquake rocked a vulnerable Haiti on January 12, lives of numerous American podiatrists with ties to the country and its people were rocked too. For years, American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) doctors have travelled to the diabetes plagued nation on a mission to save lower-limbs from amputation as a result of the disease. In fact, nearly seven percent of the estimated nine million Haitians have diabetes, and far too many don’t even know they have it. Ironically, APMA doctors, such as Patrick DeHeer, DPM, of Carmel, IN, who set up a diabetes wound care center in Port-au-Prince with the intent of preventing people’s legs, feet and toes from being amputated, this month found himself back in the devastated city to perform the surgery he tried so hard to avoid — amputations. He did it not because of diabetes, but in order to save lives.

"It is chaos here — terrible injuries, people crushed, compartment syndromes — many of which are ending up in amputations," reported Dr. DeHeer, who served as a wound care director for a field hospital at a United Nations (UN) compound overseen by Project Medishare in Haiti’s capital city. "I just assisted on a below-the-knee amputation with an orthopedic surgeon on a 12-year-old girl. It is overwhelming."

This type of limb removal surgery, such as the one Dr. DeHeer described, has become all too common since the disaster hit. Infections, such as gangrene, have made amputations imminent without enough antibiotics and proper sterilization. The Pan American Health Organization reports there will be thousands of amputations in Haiti — and nearly half of the people impacted may lose more than one limb. Haiti’s high prevalence of diabetes and lack medicine to properly regulate the disease may only compound the amputation demand, as well as the need for expert podiatric care.

“It’s a tragedy that such an already fragile nation has to deal with such devastation and loss,” said APMA President Ronald D. Jensen, DPM. “As a podiatrist, I know first-hand how tragic it can be for a patient to lose a limb. There is a tremendous amount of help and support that the patient and their family require that is a challenge to provide in the best of circumstances. The people in Haiti will need help for a very long time.”

APMA podiatrists across the country continue to deploy to the shaken country to offer medical assistance. Only time will tell what toll the surge in amputations will have on the plight of the Haitian people.

To read more about APMA podiatrists’ missions to Haiti, visit http://www.apma.org.

Founded in 1912, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) is the nation's leading and recognized professional organization for doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. The medical education and training of a DPM includes four years of undergraduate education, four years of graduate education at an accredited podiatric medical college and two or three years of hospital residency training. APMA has 53 state component locations across the United States and its territories, with a membership of close to 12,000 podiatrists. All practicing APMA members are licensed by the state in which they practice podiatric medicine. For more information, visit http://www.apma.org.

CONTACT:
Amie Hornbaker, APR
301.581.9221

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