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Pair's medical trip is sad, rewarding

Two local doctors treat many but find heartbreaking conditions a year after Haiti's earthquake.

March 04, 2011|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com
  • Drs. Stephan Yacoubian and Raymond Raven III stand on a street in Haiti where they went to help injured Haitians, many of them with badly healed bones that were broken in the earthquake last year. (Photo courtesy Dr. Stephen Yacoubian)
Drs. Stephan Yacoubian and Raymond Raven III stand on… (Photo courtesy…)

BURBANK — Sitting in the comfort of his Burbank medical office, orthopedic surgeon Stephan Yacoubian flipped through photographs of a far different environment.

Ranging from snapshots of Haitian school children eagerly accepting candy to shots taken during surgical operations, the photos chronicle Yacoubian’s recent mission trip to Milot, Haiti with a team of 16 other medical professionals from across the U.S.

“You really gain a lot of perspective,” said Yacoubian, who made the trip with Dr. Raymond Raven, one of his partners at Orthopedic Surgery Specialists in Burbank. “You go somewhere like that, and you see how devastating it can be not to have basic medical services, how chaotic and how serious conditions can quickly become.”

While their weeklong trip organized by the nonprofit Crudem Foundation came more than a year after the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, many patients still needed work related to injuries suffered during the catastrophe.

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Some patients had broken bones that had healed improperly, or had ongoing infections. Others had been left essentially crippled.

“This is the first time this guy walked since the earthquake because we fitted him for a limb,” Yacoubian said as he pointed to a photograph of a smiling man with a prosthetic leg. “He was a happy camper.”

Yacoubian and Raven are just two of many doctors from across the region, including in Burbank and Glendale, who volunteer their services on mission trips throughout the world.

On their Haiti trip, Yacoubian and Raven worked out of the Crudem Foundation’s Hôpital Sacré Coeur, the main functioning hospital in the nation more than 100 miles from Port-au-Prince.

By the time they arrived, a line of more than 150 people had gathered at the hospital to see one of the American surgeons.

Despite the massive international post-earthquake response to the poverty-stricken nation, Yacoubian and Raven said they were struck by how meeting basic day-to-day medical needs remains a challenge.

While there, they worked on earthquake victims and those with recent injuries, including several that were motorcycle-related.

“That stuff happens every day and they don’t have the doctors,” Yacoubian, a Glendale resident, said. “The guy would have died.”

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