February 2020 – In 2010, a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. On the eve of the ten-year anniversary of this horrific event, an international team of burn surgeons established the first pediatric laser unit to treat disfiguring scars in Haitian children at Sacre Coeur Hospital, in Milot. The team was led by medical experts from Israel’s National Burn Center and the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response at Sheba Medical Center.
As local healthcare providers looked on, visiting surgeons performed 10 successful laser procedures on children with transformative burn scars. Thirty surgeons, nurses, and therapists from six Haitian and Dominican hospitals received advanced training on how to apply the newest techniques to heal burn scars in children with advanced laser surgery.
In Haiti, approximately 80 percent of pediatric burns are caused by rechauds, open-fire stoves used for cooking. One of the most complex cases that the Israeli doctors treated was a 27-year-old pregnant woman who had a seizure that caused her to fall into a rechaud. She suffered second-degree burns on her mouth and eyelids, which led to blindness and prevented her from eating for months.
The Sheba team, assisted by their Haitian colleagues, evaluated her condition and the associated risks, and they decided to perform an emergency laser surgery that saved both her life and the life of her unborn baby.
The US-based Burn Advocates Network sponsored the mission to Haiti. One year ago, this nonprofit organization also established the I-PEARLS (Israel Pediatric Aesthetic and Reconstructive Laser Surgery) Center of Excellence at Sheba, under the direction of world-renowned burn specialists Prof. Josef Haik, MD, and Prof. Arie Orenstein, MD. The I-PEARLS Center uses Israeli-developed carbon dioxide (CO2) ablative lasers to safely and successfully diminish the effects of burn scars in children.