“I have been a volunteer physician for Heart to Heart International since March 2019 when I retired from private practice in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Never one to be a stay-at-home doctor, I launched a second chapter learning my way to Disaster Medicine surrounded by like-minded medical professionals who care for patients in challenging circumstances. I love that HHI has the vision to care for patients both domestically and abroad. I have travelled in the Mobile Medical Unit on the Missouri Rural Health Initiative and deployed to the hurricanes in the Bahamas and Honduras.
This year, the pandemic has made me acutely aware of the needs in my own backyard. My current workplace is the homeless shelter at Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus in Kansas City where Heart to Heart International staffs the medical clinic. Wound care is by far our most challenging care plan as our patients have an outdoor life and inadequate footwear. Donated socks and shoes are part of our bandages.
My most recent international deployment was the double hurricanes of Honduras. Our team travelled down flooded rivers in small boats and trucked up mountain roads past landslides to displaced communities who had lost access to medicine and medical providers. Caring for pulmonary and gastrointestinal problems was complicated by the ever-present COVID-19, but our team managed with well stocked PPE and good humor. HHI has a new invaluable handheld ultrasound that uses an Ipad/Iphone screen. Families were delighted to see their babies and even more delighted to have a defined due date. One surprised father almost fainted when we told him that his baby was coming in 2 weeks instead of his assumed 2 months! Even in such austere living situations, mothers had washed their children and dressed them in their best clothes for the provider visits. Grandparents observed proudly as their grandchildren took a deep breath or opened their mouths wide for inspection. It was evident that despite having lost all material means, these families had rescued their most valuable possessions – their children.
Friends and neighbors do ask – “Why give resources to people in places where you will not remain and where supplies may not be replenished?” I have learned that the displaced people that we care for are resilient and able. The respite that we provide in their moments of desperation is both life bridging and life saving until they are able to reconnect to their previous resources or their next resource. HHI is different than other organizations not only in its ability to preplan and provide an adequate supply chain, but in its post planning and partnering with other organizations. We are not alone.” – Dr. Kathleen Stone