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Archive for Friday, September 16, 1994

MISSION CALLS DOCTOR TO ISLE

September 16, 1994

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A local doctor described conditions in the Dominican Republic where he recently spent time treating people.

People in the Dominican Republic don't seem to be too concerned about a potential U.S. invasion of neighboring Haiti, says a Lawrence physician who was there.

"They realized that was a possibility but the main feeling was that it wouldn't affect them a whole lot," said Lee Reussner, a physician who moved to Lawrence in July.

Reussner and his wife, Tandy, spent the first two weeks in August treating people for various ailments in the Dominican Republic as part of a mission by a nondenominational Christian physicians' group.

He was one of about 40 U.S. doctors and dentists who went to the Dominican Republic as part of the Medical Group Missions, which he said is part of the Christian Medical and Dental Society.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti are located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

Reussner said many Dominicans are more concerned with conditions at home than in Haiti.

Members of the physicians' group stayed in bunk beds at a campsite 15 to 20 miles from the Haitian border.

He said the Dominican Republic does not have enough doctors or facilities for the number of people needing medical attention.

"We did a lot of surgery -- 16 to 20 operations a day," said Reussner, an ear, nose and throat doctor, and head/neck surgeon.

"People would just line up ... 50-70 people per day, some of them waited there all day.

"I think the physicians that are there are pretty skilled but I don't think they have the money or the equipment to treat many of these problems."

He said many patients had tumors on their faces or parasites from drinking tainted water.

Doctors sometimes had to operate using flashlights because of intermittent electricity, he said.

"From what people said, it's a lot worse (in Haiti) and people were struggling to survive," he said.

Reussner said many people still needed treatment when the group's stay ended.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "We tried to take care of as many people as we could but there was only so much you could do in two weeks."

The group's next mission to the area is scheduled for March.

"It's hard to tell someone 'You have to wait until next March,' but that's the fact for many of these people."

Reussner said the experience offered many valuable lessons.

"The people, in general, seem to be very happy with their lives -- they were incredibly friendly for the most part," despite hardships, he said.

"Sometimes Americans don't realize how much we have. But they have things we probably don't," he said. "The Dominicans --they are able to spend more time talking to people when we are busy doing our own business."

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