By Alicia Whitaker/Huffington Post
Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, teams of doctors volunteering to help made their way to Haiti with supplies and equipment for field hospitals. The horrific result of this particular earthquake and its impact on a country of fragile buildings led to an unprecedented number of amputations – the current estimate is upwards of 5,000 people. In other major earthquakes, lost limbs have numbered in the hundreds, not the thousands.
One of those doctors was Dr. David Colbert, a NYC-based dermatologist and internist who also has experience as an emergency room physician with advanced wound care expertise. Trained in France, he speaks fluent French and has learned enough words in Creole to make an enormous difference to the frightened patients he encountered early in the crisis, who were coping with crushing injuries and serious infections in broken limbs that made amputation the only option. Some had waited for treatment for several days and their limbs now could not be saved.
Colbert assisted in several emergency amputations, including one for a young man named Wilfred who insisted he’d rather lose his life than his leg. It was Colbert’s job to convince him otherwise, and he promised the skeptical Wilfrid he’d find him a state-of-the-art prosthetic. The boy was wheeled into surgery.
Colbert came back to NY determined to raise awareness and money for prosthetics and the related services that make them work in a country where low-tech is the approach of choice because of issues with money, infrastructure and skills. He reached out to the Ivan Sabel Hanger Foundation, allied with Hanger Orthotics and Prosthetics, the world’s largest maker of prosthetics , and decided to partner with them to make it happen.
Terry Reed, an NYC-based author and screen writer and a recent collaborator with Dr. Colbert on a diet and nutrition book, The High School Reunion Diet, recently traveled to Haiti and headed to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, now the site of a prosthetics clinic. Here’s her report on what she found:
“During the earthquake, hundreds had been transported here over rough roads from Port-au-Prince and lay waiting in the courtyard for medical attention. When the Hanger people offered materials and expertise for the devastating number of amputees, the hospital gave Hanger a building for a clinic. In the front of the clinic, the technicians fit limbs for the people who arrive on crutches, in wheelbarrows, on the backs of mopeds. There’s a wing where the therapists teach the newly fitted to walk. They make the prosthetics in the back of the clinic, in a factory. The knee joints, elbows and other mechanical parts are flown in, but much of the artistry happens on site, where a custom leg is created by hands that understand the mysteries of weight bearing and tibia bones and patellas. The day I was there, a small team of hard-working designers and technicians made sixty three legs.”
Back in New York, designer L’Wren Scott, a friend of Dr. Colbert’s, enlisted the help of her boyfriend Mick Jagger to spearhead a benefit that will take place on Thursday, May 6. Together with Dr. Colbert, Reed, David Scott and other members of the doctor’s newly-formed foundation, they have attracted a large group of celebrities who are lending their names, donating goods for an auction and giving money for the cause. Among them are Rachel Weisz, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michelle Williams, Sienna Miller, Jude Law, Helmut Lang, John Currin, Rachel Feinstein, Naomi Watts, Zac Posen, Christopher Niquet, Edie Falco, and Margery and Ted Mayer.
Auction items include art and photography, couture gowns and jewelry, guitars signed by Jagger and the Rolling Stones and a number of other special donations from artists, designers and musicians.