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Advocate Lutheran General surgeon travels to Dominican Republic to treat Haitian quake victims

he news coverage was just too compelling for Jesse Butler, MD. After watching daily reports of the devastation in Haiti, Dr. Butler, an Advocate Lutheran General Hospital spine surgeon, "felt the trauma was so overwhelming that I had to get involved to provide my expertise with what I knew would be numerous spine injury victims."

And so, he reached out to contacts in the Dominican Republic and to friends and colleagues from Lutheran General and area hospitals to accompany him on a mission to heal.  Within days, he'd organized a group of six care providers - including Lutheran General physician's assistant Alicia Granger-Carlson - and $10,000 in surgical equipment.  With everything packed in their own checked luggage, they headed to Dario Contreras Hospital in Santo Domingo.

Among the items contributed by Lutheran General were basic operating room equipment like drapes and gloves, as well as power equipment like headlights "that were critical to performing surgery," he noted.

Under crude conditions of unbearable heat, little sterilization and no anesthetic save for over-the-counter analgesics, the nurses on the team treated 28 patients a day, while Dr. Butler performed 11 surgeries in five days. The patients ranged in age from 12 to 50 years -- most of them paraplegics. 

"The force of the walls, ceilings and buildings that hit these victims was such that it literally separated their spines through the disk and the ligaments," he said, adding that the fortitude of the people they treated was like nothing he's experienced. "The youth and stoicism of these patients, under such dire conditions, still haunts me."

Adding to the nightmare they've already experienced are the long-term health care needs of those patients - and the many still left to be treated. "They are going to need constant, ongoing health care - long after they've been treated at the hospital," Dr. Butler said.  He is already putting together "teams of people," including more physicians from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital/Lutheran General Children's Hospital to "go down and do what they can to continue our efforts."       

The experience of going to Dario Contreras Hospital and taking care of these earthquake victims has "reminded me  why we go into medicine," Dr. Butler said. "It's to take care of people....to see the appreciation for what you can do in a very difficult situation is very rewarding.

"This experience," he said, "makes me proud to be part of Advocate Health Care."

A slideshow of Dr Butler's team treating patients from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and a full video interview with Dr. Butler, can be seen on the Advocate Health Care Web site.

Lutheran General Hospital is a 645-bed teaching, research and referral hospital, a Level I trauma center, and one of the largest hospitals in the Chicago area.  It also is home to Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital, the only children's hospital in the greater north and northwest suburban region of Chicago and a major regional referral center for a broad range of infant and pediatric services.

Lutheran General has been recognized 11 times as one of the 100 Top Hospitals and 15 top major teaching hospitals in the country. For ten years, Lutheran General has been rated by US News & World Report as being one of America's Best Hospitals, and received 'top 50 in the nation' rankings for medical excellence and advanced capabilities in many specialties.

Lutheran General recently achieved the best overall surgical morbidity ranking in the country, according to the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program of the American College of Surgeons. It also received a "Get with the Guidelines" gold award from the American Heart Association for its commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of cardiac care for patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease.  In addition, the hospital is certified as a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission in recognition of its exceptional outcomes for these patients.

The hospital also was the first in the north and northwest suburbs to be awarded the American Nurses Credentialing Center's prestigious Magnet designation, the highest honor and level of nursing excellence in the nation.

Lutheran General Hospital is part of Oak Brook-based Advocate Health Care, which is the largest health care provider in Illinois and one of the nation's top health care systems.


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