Health team returns from Bahamas

The four USF Health physicians who traveled the Bahamas to offer medical help to evacuees from Hurricane Dorian have returned, sharing details about their effort.

Seetha Lakshmi, MD, Andrew Myers, MD, Asa Oxner, MD, and Elimarys Perez-Colon, MD, — all on faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine – spent several days in Nassau.

Arriving in Nassau to help provide medical care are, from left, Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, Dr. Asa Oxner, Dr. Andrew Myers, and Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon.

The team evaluated around 50 to 60 pediatric patients for school physicals and acute illnesses.  Patients were about 60 to 70% Haitian living in Abaco and now living in public shelters. Most common ailments were upper respiratory infections, dermatologic diagnoses, asthma, allergies, pneumonia, probable tuberculosis, which was referred to hospital for diagnosis and treatment, and grieving/emotional and psychological trauma.

The trip also included a delivery of 3,000 pounds of medical supplies and medications. This adds to the estimated 50,000 pounds of medical and para-medical humanitarian donations that this group of partners has been able to source and deliver to Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama over the past two weeks.

Help is still needed to continue the donation effort. Please visit: usf.to/Bahamas

Reactions from the USF Health team:

“We were really surprised by the amount of resiliency we saw because they were evacuee patients, but then they have smiles on their faces and plans for their future,” said Dr. Oxner. “We are also really impressed with how organized the (Bahamas) Ministry of Health is. We’ve participated in other responses in other countries and the Ministry of Health in the Bahamas was much more organized.”

“We offered a lot of help to children who were displaced and trying to get back to school,” said Dr. Lakshmi. “The parents who brought them in just teared up. Another child came in, a four-year-old girl, and she had a rash all over her body and I asked the parent how it started. She said they were in their house when the water started coming up and up. She grabbed her kids and ran up to the hilly area where there was an abandoned truck. She loaded her kids in and she saw the water rise up. They were in chest deep water for 12 hours.”

“In addition to donations, they are going to need more mental health and support,” said Dr. Perez-Colon. “The trauma we witnessed there is very significant. These kids are incredible. They’re resilient. Some were smiling but a lot of them we had a little bit of trouble getting close to them, and some had trouble having eye contact, having nightmares. So they do need more mental health help.”

Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon with a young girl in Nassau.