CRYSTAL LAKE – Even at 70 years old, Dr. Lawrence Lavine cannot resist the call of Haiti.
After numerous mission trips to the region starting in 1998, Lavine is set to go back to Haiti again in October to provide much needed medical care. It will be his first time back in the region since he went on multiple trips from 2010 to 2012 to assist with the major damage caused by the earthquake.
Lavine said the scenes were horrible as thousands were without homes and hundreds needed amputations. As an anesthesiologist, he often worked 12-hour shifts and double duty at Hospital Adventiste d'Haiti.
"Their major problem is homelessness. Families would pitch tents on the median strips of busy boulevards," Lavine said. "I'm hoping it has gotten a lot better, but they still need help."
In-between trips to Haiti, Lavine also found time during the last decade to make multiple trips to the Aligandi Island of Panama with his partner Dr. Daniel Gruver. With Lavine as anesthesiologist and Gruver as surgeon, the duo helped repair the cleft lip and cleft palate condition that plagued countless Kuna Indians on the island.
But with the recent passing of his long time partner and friend in Gruver, Lavine is hoping this coming trip to Haiti will inspire another physician to join the cause. Lavine said Cuba has sent some assistance to the island, but there are not skilled physicians to meet the medical needs.
"[Gruver] actually went through another residency to learn to repair cleft lip, cleft palate," Lavine said of his friend's passion for helping the Kuna Indians. "I want to keep helping as long as I'm able, but we need to find a surgeon."
After returning from his week-long trip in Haiti in October, Lavine said he will have hopefully found a replacement but is still looking locally. He said it is some of the most rewarding work a physician can accomplish.
"I know the problems there will never go away," Lavine said. "But if I can make something a little better for someone, at least the cup will always be half full."