Suitcases stuffed with surgical supplies sat in a storage space in Southampton early this week like a small baggage claim of their own.
But the roughly dozen bags—along with many more in two other nearby units—were the luggage of just one South America-bound group, the International Surgical Mission Support-Team New York.
The secular, non-political organization, which includes many East End doctors and aims to provide free medical care to the poor all over the world, was to fly its team to Chile on Thursday, April 4, in its latest effort to do just that.
The long, slender coastal country was jolted by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010. ISMS-Team New York wanted to respond then, explained Dr. Medhat Allam, a general and laparoscopic surgeon who lives in Southampton Village and chairs the team’s board of directors. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the logistics were set, thanks in part to Isabel Sepulveda-de Scanlon, a Chilean native who lives in North Sea, and her friend, Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, the director of the Gabriela Mistral Foundation, which seeks to help the poor.
“Bringing the doctors to a poor [country] devastated by the earthquake area in the south of Chile is special because some of these people have been waiting awhile for these kind of operations,” Ms. Sepulveda-de Scanlon wrote in an email from Chile this week.
The team now has the support of the country’s first lady, Cecilia Morel.
The goal is to not only provide free surgical care, but also to share medical knowledge and to donate supplies.
The doctors on the trip will travel to Linares Hospital, which has about 250 beds, but is ill equipped and has a backlog of thousands of patients, Dr. Allam said. “The field in surgery is very limited,” he said.
If a woman in Linares, for example, needs to have an ovarian tumor removed, the doctors would do it the old-fashioned way, with a big incision, many nights in the hospital and a long recovery, he said. Here, it would be done laparoscopically and the patient would spend just one night in the hospital.
“We will teach the surgeons who do standard surgical procedures such as removing organs or connecting valves using laparascopic fashion,” he said, referring to the more modern, minimally invasive surgical technique.
As he made his way through the storage room, Dr. Allam pointed out that each colored tag on the bags of surgical supplies denotes the type of surgery it is for. A checkerboard sticker means the bag contains anesthesia equipment, red means recovery, and green means gynecology.
With their color-coded supplies at the ready, the team was looking to long days in the operating room treating hundreds of patients before their return to the East End on April 17.
Among the team members are several from Southampton Hospital. According to Dr. Allam, they include two gynecologists, Dr. Vito Alamia and Dr. Geri Schmitt; a plastic surgeon, Dr. Joseph Debellis; a certified registered nurse anesthetist, Bob Mineo; operating room nurses Patricia Mitchell and Hollysue Crennan; and recovery room nurse Erin Grismer. Dr. Rajesh Patel from Peconic Bay Medical Center also is on the team.
“I can only say fantastic things about this whole thing,” Ms. Garafulich-Grabois said.