Miracle in Honduras thanks in part to Merck’s partnership with HPIC

Dr. Mallory Chavannes, Dr. Fabian Gorodzinsky, and Dr. Chloe Davidson regularly travel to Honduras on humanitarian medical missions always equipped with medicines provided by HPIC. During their April 2014 mission, they were able to bring healing to about 650 children in the towns around Gracias.

Merck Canada Inc. (Merck) has been a long-time supporter of medical mission trips through HPIC, sponsoring Physician Travel Packs (PTP) such as those used by Dr. Chavannes and her team. This year, Merck will approach the $10 million milestone in donations of medicine as well as in financial support to HPIC.

Each PTP is a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies needed to provide primary care, like bringing a basic pharmacy along.

Of all the hundreds of children Dr. Chavannes treated with PTPs such as those sponsored by Merck, two stood out in her memory. She wrote about these two little boys, aged 12 and 7, in her post-trip report to HPIC.

“Looking at them, you would have thought they were 8 and 3, considering how small they were. They had been abandoned by their mother and were in the care of their father and grandfather,” Dr. Chavannes wrote.

“They had a very rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. This is a genetic condition which affects the skin, depriving it of its natural protection. It places the children at higher risk for cancer from sun exposure. They also are prone to skin ulcerations and corneal abrasions.

“Infections of the skin ulcers can be very problematic. They actually had been lucky to see a dermatologist in Gracias, but they could not afford any therapy. In Canada, they would have been treated with high dose retinoic acid or with 5-FU.

“However, it just so happens this year that the Physician Travel Packs came with multiple bottles of replenishing eye drops. We usually do not have many indications to use these in paediatrics. However, these were perfect for the boys!

“We managed to find a large bag and filled it with eye drops to protect their eyes from corneal abrasions (which can lead to blindness). We also gave them tubes of antibiotic cream to protect their ulcerating skin.

“Combined with sunscreen from our own personal supplies, these boys had enough medication for at least a year to protect them from the sun, keep their wounds from getting infected and protect their eyes.

“It really felt like a miracle that we had the chance to meet these boys and to actually provide medications that they needed,” she wrote.

“This trip would definitely not be the same without the donations of medicine from HPIC’s donors,” Dr. Chavannes wrote in her report. “For some of these children, it is obvious that the timeliness of our presence, combined with the antibiotics, is a life-saving event. It is clear that a young baby affected with pneumonia can suffer severe consequences. Also, considering how difficult it is to fundraise and buy medication at full price for these kinds of missions, it is indispensable to have organizations like HPIC combined with donations from companies for us to be able to deliver care abroad.”