If 20-year-old Valentino Dealagdon didn’t receive medical care immediately, he was going to die.
A mass in the man’s leg, which had been steadily growing over recent months, had become septic and developed Gas Gangrene. Bacterial growth exploded, producing dangerous gases and toxins.
The bacteria was poisoning his blood and could have caused a circulatory collapse.
A village chief told the Dealagdon family about Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) and the hospital ship USNS Mercy’s (T-AH 19) visit to Calbayog.
Dealagdon and his mother arrived in Calbayog City by ambulance at a PP12 surgery community action project (SURGCAP) site where Valentino’s critical condition was quickly identified.
Capt. James Toledano was the first surgeon to see Dealagdon at the SURGCAP recalled that the young man was brought into the site on a homemade stretcher. “We felt that the condition of his limb was really threatening his life and by his vital signs indicated he had little time to live,” said Toledano.
Dealagdon was flown by helicopter aboard Mercy for emergency treatment. Lt. Kayla Horton, was on the scene when Dealagdon arrived on Mercy’s flight deck. ”He looked very thin and very frail, and with a quick look at his leg you can tell that it was very swollen and infected,” said Horton. “We quickly got him to the causality receiving room and started him on IV’s to stabilize him.”
PP12’s Director of Surgical services, Cmdr. Matthew Provencher said Dealagdon’s only chance at survival was an urgent leg amputation.
”Without an emergent leg amputation his chances of survival were minimal,” said Cmdr. Provencher. “Through a great host nation and Mercy’s team effort, we were able to transport the patient to the ship for urgent life-saving surgery.”
PP12’s Dr. Robert Baxt, general surgeon and Project HOPE volunteer, was the on-call surgeon for the day.
“I got the phone call saying that he was on a helicopter, and we responded,” Baxt said.
“His chances of survival when we started the surgery were less than 50%, but after surgery we could already start seeing signs of improvement.”
Partner Nation Surgeon, Major Christiaan Hoff, of the Dutch Army, assisted during the operation. ”When we did the surgery, the essential thing was to stop the spread of infection,” he said.
The first thing the surgeons did after the patient was under anesthesia was tying the blood vessels that were transporting the toxins.
Dr. Hoff went on to explain that the team was able to divert the blood vessels in the first few minutes of surgery. “The patient will still have to go in for additional surgery depending on his stabilization. “The surgeons will create an incision that will heal properly once the infection is gone.”
Hoff said the atmosphere in the operating theatre was highly charged. “Despite the stress of time, it was a very organized situation,” Hoff said.
Dr Hoff said the surgery took roughly one hour from the first incision to dressing the wound.
PP12′s Lead Nurse during the surgery, Julie Porucznik, a Project HOPE volunteer, said of this emergent situation, “This is the type of case that I am good at handling; this is why I joined Project HOPE; and, this is why I resigned my job, so I can help people in these situations.”
Proucznik said she had not seen a case like this on Mercy, “We do many life-changing surgeries here, but this one helped save a man’s life.”