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Local surgeons head for Haiti with supplies; update from Dominican

A team of local doctors is heading to a makeshift hospital today just outside of Port-Au-Prince in Haiti, carrying surgical equipment and other emergency supplies donated by Manatee Memorial and Blake hospitals.

“We know we’re heading into devastation, and that our expertise is sorely needed,” said Dr. Joseph Pecoraro, a Bradenton vascular and general surgeon, in a telephone interview from Miami International Airport. “We expect to do mostly amputations, treat traumatized wounds, deal with multiple fractures — we’ll do what we can.”

He is joined by anesthesiologists Trey Bernard, Tom Nutter and orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Sugar, all from Sarasota. They boarded an American Airlines flight to the Dominican Republic, and planned to drive early this morning to Petit-Goave, Haiti, where UNICEF set up the makeshift hospital.

Pecoraro is one of the founding members of Hearts Afire, a medical missionary organization that has organized medical relief teams to send into the devastated country. They have been working with two other missionaries since the earthquake: the Dominican Republic’s Corazon de Siervo (“Servants Heart”) and the Haitian Christian Development Fund.

“We sent along anything we could give — surgical needs, pharmaceuticals, bandages, you name it,” said Vernon DeSear, vice president of marketing/business development at Manatee Memorial. “We’re trying to work with everyone, because you want to do whatever you can.”

DeSear’s voice caught with emotion as he described the past week, noting that hospital officials are communicating with doctors and medical teams who have been in Haiti.

“It’s such an emotional conversation,” DeSear said. “The sheer numbers of what they’ve seen make it tough for them to talk long.”

Many of the hospital’s staff members are helping with medical mission trips.

“They are all quite committed to giving,” DeSear said Monday night. “They don’t want attention. They just want to help in this tragic situation.”

Javier Bedoya, an employee with Manatee Memorial’s housekeeping services, has exemplified that spirit.

“He can barely speak English, yet he has spearheaded efforts to get help to Haiti,” DeSear said. “He has walked the halls, saying, ‘I know people there. Please help.’ How can you say no to someone like that? Everyone just keeps giving and giving.”

Joan Krauter, executive editor, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 2000.

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