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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Everyone should be aware of the Labour Day movement

My hat is off to Tyson Whitney for his article on Labour Day.

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

Transformative ‘Centre of Hope’ coming to Port Hardy

With the new building, the Salvation Army will be able to run the shelter year long.

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read