Dr. John Potts, centre, and two other surgeons operate on a patient at the field hospital. (Samaritan’s Purse photo)

Dr. John Potts, centre, and two other surgeons operate on a patient at the field hospital. (Samaritan’s Purse photo)

Vancouver Island doctor rushed to help Hurricane Dorian victims days after his retirement

Potts was asked by Samaritan’s Purse to help at a field hospital in Freeport

When Dr. John Potts retired from his family practice in Ladysmith on August 31, a sudden trip to the Bahamas was the last thing he was expecting.

Potts is a member of Samaritan’s Purse, a christian organization that responds to natural disasters around the world. Samaritan’s Purse is connected to a network of health care providers in Canada, America, Australia, and England. When natural disasters occur, Samaritan’s Purse puts out a call to people like Potts.

After Hurricane Dorian swept across the Bahamas, Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport was flooded with two feet of sea water and sewage. Samaritan’s Purse worked to set up a temporary field hospital nearby the Rand Memorial Hospital. Potts worked there for 10 days as a general surgeon.

“In the space of five days we had a functioning operating room,” he said. “I was operating on people by day five. The rest of my time there we were seeing patients.”

Potts said he didn’t see many people suffering from trauma. The people of the Bahamas are no strangers to hurricanes. However medical conditions can’t be put on hold just because hurricanes come through.

RELATED: Disaster Aid Canada provides aid to Hurricane Dorian victims in the Bahamas

About a third of the patients Potts saw were hurricane related. The most common case was people with diabetes and hypertension who had poor circulation to their legs. Many of them sustained a cut to their foot while wading through storm water. That resulted in many cases of cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection that causes pain and swelling.

“The medical side of the response was the initial response we did. As the weeks went on, more and more non-medical stuff was going on,” Potts said. “More work on shelters, rebuilding, water and sanitation — cleaning up wells so they could use wells again — all of that infrastructure stuff you need to do after there’s been a disaster.”

Potts has deployed eight times with Samaritan’s Purse. He previously served in Haiti four times, Ecuador following the 2016 earthquake, the Philippines twice, and at a field hospital near Mosul when the Iraqi army and ISIS were fighting for control of the city.

This deployment was different for Potts. He said the key difference was that the people he worked with and operated on all spoke English.

“It makes a huge difference. You don’t have an interpreter at your elbow all the time. You can talk to someone about how they’re doing, how their wife and kids are, and how they’re feeling,” Potts said.

He said he saw a lot of the same conditions in the Bahamas that he saw on a regular basis in Ladysmith like diabetes, and hypertension.

Potts also said the Bahamian staff of the Rand Memorial Hospital were excellent to work with.

“They were tightly connected to us. Twice a day we would go around the hospital together with the Bahamian doctors… on a couple of occasions their surgeons would operate with us. There was some surgical stuff that I didn’t know how to do, cause it’s beyond me. But the surgeons knew, they just needed an operating room.”

Based on his experience in the Bahamas, Potts feels “very optimistic” that the nation will rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

“The people are resilient, cheerful and determined,” he said. “If somebody came and knocked down your house, and walked away, you’d rebuild something.”

Just Posted

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read