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Haitian Doctor Dramatically Saves Life Using Just-Learned Emergency Technique

Dr. Vital Hervé, a doctor working at the Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti (HUEH) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, dramatically saved the life of one of his patients, using a technique he had just learned in the International Medical Corps’ Emergency Course for Doctors.

Dr. Hervé, who works in the HUEH emergency room but had not previously had specific emergency training, stuck a large needle into the chest of his patient to drain compressive fluid that had surrounded the heart and saved the man’s life, an emergency technique known as pericardiocentesis.

Dr. Hervé had just learned how to do the surgical technique that week.  His patient was very sick, went into shock, and would have otherwise died.  However, Dr. Hervé, realizing the dire situation from only his first week of training in the four-week emergency course, rapidly identified that fluid around his patient’s heart was about to kill him.

Using a long, spinal needle that was available in the hospital, Dr. Hervé plunged it into his patient’s chest, just below the ribcage.  He was then able to pull off close to a cup worth of fluid from around the heart, which relieved the pressure on it and allowed it to regain function.  The patient instantly improved and felt dramatically better, going from severe extremis to breathing comfortably and requesting food to eat for the first time in days.

Dr. Hervé’s patient continues to do well, despite coming so close to death.  Dr. Hervé has sent out laboratory tests to determine the cause of the fluid buildup around the heart, which he suspects is possibly from a bad case of tuberculosis.  Previously, Dr. Hervé did not know how to perform the critical technique.  He stated, “Without the International Medical Corps course I would not have known what to do; I cannot thank them enough.”

Dr. Hervé learned the procedure as one of the many life-saving techniques taught in the Emergency Doctor Course.  The course is part of International Medical Corps’ Emergency Medical Care Development program at HUEH.

The program developed the knowledge and skills of over 50 physicians and 100 nurses at HUEH, Port-au-Prince’s main public and training hospital, and improved emergency care at the facility through a balance of didactic instruction, skills workshops and bedside teaching, with an overall focus on sustainable system development.

Improved access to quality emergency care at HUEH not only benefits Haitians living in Port-au-Prince, but also across the country, as the doctors trained at HUEH establish their practices around the country.