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Helping Haiti: ‘We’ve done really some good work’

Dr. Ellen Kempf examines 2-year-old Nyderson Deris, who was brought to Akron Children's from Haiti for surgery to repair his heart defect.

Dr. Ellen Kempf examines 2-year-old Nyderson Deris, who was brought to Akron Children’s from Haiti for surgery to repair his heart defect.

Since making his first trip to Haiti in 2010, following that country’s devastating earthquake, Dr. Jeff Kempf has been humbled by the progress made by his Akron Children’s Hospital team and a larger coalition that now includes five other U.S. children’s hospitals.

Dr. Kempf, director of Akron Children’s Center for Global Health, returned from his latest trip to St. Damien’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince a few weeks ago.

For the second time, Akron Children’s brought two Haitian children back to Akron for surgical repairs of congenital heart defects.

Two-year-old Nyderson Deris is recovering well from surgery to repair the heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. He is in the care of pediatric cardiologist John Clark, and his wife, Denise, until he’s safely able to travel back home to his parents.

Dr. Jeff Kempf, and his wife, Dr. Ellen Kempf, are caring for a 2-year-old girl, Kimsy Francois, who will have surgery to repair atrioventricular (AV) canal and mitral valve cleft defects.

During the March trip, Dr. Clark assessed children to identify future candidates for life-saving surgery. Akron dentist Tom Semans joined the group to provide much needed dental care to children.

Pediatric intensivist John Pope returned to St. Damien’s and brought along his PICU colleague Dr. Michael Forbes, who found his first trip to Haiti transformational on a personal level.

2-year-old Kimsy Francois,Dr. Kempf is pleased with the progress being made at St. Damien’s, Haiti’s largest pediatric hospital.

“With our consortium, we now have doctors from  six U.S. children’s hospitals providing coverage at St. Damien’s eight out of 12 months,” he said. “When we’re there, we are able to give their doctors time for continuing education.”

On this recent trip, the Haitian doctors took a class in ultrasound.

“Many people and hospitals donate equipment to hospitals in Haiti but it sits around unused because of a lack of training,” Dr. Kempf said.

Another accomplishment is sharing “order sets” or care pathways for the St. Damien’s staff.

This means that if a child is diagnosed with asthma, malnutrition, sickle cell or some other disease, there is one, consistent approach to ordering tests and treatment based on best practices. The information is available in both English and French.

Akron Children’s will send surgeons back to Haiti in the fall and progress is being made so the hospital can perform its own heart surgeries.

“Of course I am partial to improving emergency services,” said Dr. Kempf, who works in Akron Children’s Emergency Department. “But I do recognize that, when it comes to donations, the biggest bang for our buck comes from vaccines. We have made great strides in some areas, like reducing measles, but still have a ways to go with rotavirus, pneumococcal and other diseases.”

Dr. Kempf held a global health conference at Akron Children’s last year and got so much interest that the event will be annual. This year it will be held in October in Providence, R.I. and he hopes it will be held in Haiti the following year.

“We’ve done some really good work,” said Dr. Kempf. “It’s really remarkable stuff.”