On January 12th, 2010, a large-scale earthquake struck the West Indian island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Haiti, which occupies the western part of the Island, was the worst hit, with its capital, Port-au-Prince, left in ruins.
Immediately following the earthquake, a Sheba team was dispatched to help set up an IDF field hospital that treated hundreds of patients, delivering essential medical supplies and equipment to the disaster area. Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, now the Director of Sheba’s HDRC, headed the hospital’s orthopedic department.
In the subsequent months, Dr. Itzhak Siev-Ner, Director of the Orthopedic Rehabilitation Department at Sheba, has made four trips to Haiti, treating more than 4,000 people who lost limbs in the disaster. Under Siev-Ner’s supervision, rotating teams of Sheba doctors and physiotherapists frequented Haiti year-round to outfit prosthetic limbs, conduct surgery, and treat soft tissue injuries.
By the end of the year, Prof. Bar-On and a Sheba team went back to Haiti to establish a rehabilitation center at the University Hospital of Port-au-Prince as part of a joint project with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Magen David Adom, and the Haitian Red Cross.
“I do not know where exactly Israel is, but I’m sure it is a blessed place,” said Sounlove Zamor, a severely injured Haitian treated by Sheba physicians. 19-year-old Zamor was inside her house during the catastrophe when the building collapsed. The tragic result was a partial loss of both her legs. Zamor’s dream of becoming a dancer and model was seemingly shattered, but following initial treatment by Sheba doctors in Haiti, she was flown to Israel, where she was fitted with prosthetic limbs and underwent a four-month rehabilitation. With the help of Sheba’s team, Zamor can now stand on her feet, walk and dance again.
Back to Haiti
In February 2020, on the eve of the earthquake’s tenth anniversary, an international team of burn surgeons established the first pediatric laser unit to treat disfiguring scars in Haitian children at Sacre Coeur Hospital. The HDRC team was led by Prof. Josef Haik, Director of Sheba’s National Burn Center.
Thirty surgeons, nurses, and therapists from six Haitian and Dominican hospitals received advanced training on applying the latest techniques to heal burn scars in children, including skin grafting, laser treatment, wound care, and physiotherapy.
One of the most complex cases that the Israeli doctors treated during their time in Haiti was of a 27-year-old pregnant woman who suffered from a seizure and fell into a réchaud, an open-fire stove used for cooking. She suffered second-degree burns on her mouth and eyelids, which led to blindness and prevented her from eating for months. The HDRC team, assisted by Haitian colleagues, performed an emergency laser surgery that saved both her life and the life of her unborn baby.
Following Sheba’s creed, ‘Hope Without Boundaries,’ we will continue to support our friends in Haiti and all those in need across the globe.