Beck travels to Honduras for pediatric hand surgery mission trip

Nicholas Beck, son of Don and Merri Beck of Baker, spent the first week of October in Honduras taking part in a pediatric hand surgery mission coordinated by Sharing Resources Worldwide (SRW).

Orthopedic Surgeon Nicholas Beck pictured on the back right with the team of doctors, nurses, anesthetists, and occupation therapist at La Providencia in Central America. Submitted Photo

By Angel Wyrwas

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Nicholas Beck, son of Don and Merri Beck of Baker, spent the first week of October in Honduras taking part in a pediatric hand surgery mission coordinated by Sharing Resources Worldwide (SRW).

One of the fundamental goals of each mission trip is to nurture young, talented physicians to develop a commitment to service of the underprivileged. “I’m so happy I was given the opportunity to travel to Honduras with this team. I was excited for my first mission trip, as it’s a mix of two of my favorite things – travel and operating. It’s been a phenomenal week, far better than I expected. The excellent facilities at La Providencia and resources from SRW created a work environment much like that at home. It was also eye-opening to see the struggles of patients receiving medical care in developing countries with delayed and neglected treatment. Those delays present us with challenging cases due to progression of a patient’s natural history we don’t commonly see in the US,” said Beck.

Nicholas Beck, MD completed medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He became an orthopedic surgeon after finishing his residency at the University of Minnesota. Beck is currently a Hand Surgery Fellow at the University of Iowa.

The SRW team traveled from Connecticut, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and included two surgeons, a hand surgery fellow, an anesthesiologist, an anesthesia resident, one nurse anesthetist, a surgical technician, six nurses and an occupational therapist. Nine return volunteers and five newbies in all.

“We were fortunate to bring a full team. The surgeon is just a cog in the wheel to delivering this quality of care. Our mission wouldn’t be possible without each person. Our experienced members help to improvise when everything doesn’t go as planned,” said Beck.

The team rendezvoused in San Pedro Sula and took a school bus to Siguatepeque, located in the central mountains of Honduras. The journey up into the mountains was a small adventure. After loading the bus with their luggage, the driver, Fernando, found that the bus could not be started–the battery had shorted. After a quick repair, they were on their way. But about an hour after they left, a loud “POP” startled the team.  A rear tire had blown out.  Fortunately they were within a kilometer of a roadside tire shop operated by 6- and 9-year-old brothers. The slender 9-year-old used his entire body weight to pump the jack and expertly exchanged the tire in less than 20 minutes.

After arrival, the team toured the lush campus of their host, La Providencia, an organization that provides orphan care as well as primary education and medical care to children in at risk communities.

They arrived Saturday morning at the John Eaves Medical Clinic at La Providencia, where they evaluated dozens of pediatric patients.  Local college students volunteered translation services.  The patients traveled with their families by public bus, car and foot for evaluation-some upwards of five hours.

Among the children that presented, many were candidates for surgery including children with thumb duplication, symbrachydactyly, brachymetacarpia, burn contracture, electrocution injury, osteochondroma, and neglected fractures and tendon injuries. Many children had to stay at the clinic for 1-2 days of perioperative care.

Energy and excitement filled the bus as the team returned to La Clinica the following day to begin the first of their operative cases at La Providencia. The cases chosen for that day were a combination of complicated patients that required a prolonged stay or patients who had traveled a great distance. If they were unable to return to their homes prior to surgery, volunteers or families affiliated with the clinic housed them in town.

The team arrived shortly before 8 a.m. with patients already waiting. In the pre-op area, all children received a handmade donated quilt from the United States, a stuffed animal and an activity pack containing crayons, stickers and assorted toys. The children are delighted and the families are incredibly grateful. These quilts are taken into the operating room with the child to keep them warm during the case.

Hand surgeon Apurva Shah, MD MBA and hand surgery fellow Nicholas Beck, MD perform an internal rotation humerus osteotomy to place the patient’s arm in a more functional position for use. Submitted Photo

Operating in a developing country can at times have some challenges. One day the air-conditioning was not functioning in one of the OR rooms. The culprit was a misguided gecko. The gecko has become trapped in the compressor and short-circuited the unit. Surgery was performed in high humidity with the room temperature exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit. To everyone’s relief, the unit was repaired by midday.

For surgeons operating in a foreign country, many challenges center around equipment issues and care of patients with poor access to treatment. For the anesthesia providers, the issues are even more complicated. In addition to a deficit of necessary surgical equipment and supplies, there is a limited quantity of antibiotics and outdated anesthesia machines.

SRW had managed to secure and repair a mini fluoroscopy unit, which markedly improved the ability to take on challenging cases that could not be safely performed previously. There was also a “new” fast autoclave that had been installed and tuned up.

The team saw the week end safely and the mission was a great success. In the last three years, Sharing Resources Worldwide medical teams have performed 69 operations in Honduras.

“As a trainee, it was one of the best weeks I’ve had for surgical education,” said Beck. “I was able to participate in most of the surgeries, which is nearly double the case volume I see in an average week. I was able to work one-on-one with Doctors Lawler and Shah, two leaders in the field of pediatric hand surgery. We had a mix of acute and malunion trauma, congenital including syndactyly and polydactyly, burn contractures, chronic osteomyelitis, and tumor cases. I found the most challenging cases to be the most satisfying.”

Nicholas Beck, MD and his wife, Lindsey Beck, DO will be joining the staff at Ortho Montana in Billings next September. The couple has a two-year-old son, Nate.

“My favorite part of the trip was interacting with the extremely grateful families and our brave patients,” said Beck. “It was a refreshing reminder of why I went into medicine. There I didn’t have to worry about administrative burdens, EMR charting, or production goals and could focus instead on human interactions and using the knowledge and skill set I developed while training in the U.S. to make a real difference in these young people’s lives.”



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