By Elaine SanchezOctober 11, 2012
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 11, 2012) -- A Brooke Army Medical Center team of orthopedic specialists treated nearly 75 patients during an annual medical readiness training exercise in Honduras.
The team spent two weeks at the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa last month treating a variety of challenging cases alongside Honduran health care professionals, said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mickey Cho, a Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC, hand surgeon and the medrete's mission's commander.
"It was very successful," said Cho, who marked his third mission to Honduras. "It was great training for us and also helped the local population."
The 15-member multi-service team performed a variety of upper and lower extremity cases during its two weeks in country, he said. The team included Army, Air Force and Navy professionals from BAMC and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
"This joint team was a good representation of what we do as a military when we deploy," Cho explained.
While the cases were complex, the biggest challenge didn't rest with the patients, Cho noted, but with the lack of supplies. The team brought lessons learned from a decade of war, but could only carry a limited supply of equipment.
"By the second week we were running low and had to be creative while still maintaining the same standard of care," he said. "You learn to do a lot without a lot on hand."
Cho said his team worked to convey low-cost and low-tech ways to treat complex lower extremity injuries. This will prove beneficial over the long term in a country where patients often foot the bill for medical equipment and where the equipment demand often exceeds the supply, he explained.
In fact, several of the patients had waited for a year for the team to return since the equipment was provided to them at no cost.
"The families were very grateful," he said. "Everyone who interacted with us thanked us. They know we take time away from our families to come down here and they're very appreciative of that."
Cho said the team performed with excellence, helping not only the patients, but the Honduran health care professionals as well.
"These missions foster relationships," he said, noting the team will stay in touch with their counterparts via email and phone.
On his first trip to Central America, Capt. Andrew A. Lyons III, the mission's executive officer, said he walked away with a new perspective.
"I've done two tours in Iraq, but this was completely different," he said. "It was very rewarding to help so many people in need."
"That's probably the most rewarding aspect of these missions," Cho added. "Knowing we made a difference despite a limitation of time and supplies."