Dr. in Mosul # 1

Medical Mission In Mosul

Inspired by faith, local surgeon is devoted to volunteering his services    

By Vanessa Denha Garmo

“The story of the Good Samaritan gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them.”  – Luke 10:30-37

Faith is an important part of Timothy M. Burandt, D.O., FACOS life. He has been serving as a short-term mission general surgeon for many years, primarily in Honduras on an annual basis and he did a stint in Togo, West Africa during the time of the Ebola outbreak in 2015.

Although he has no direct ties to Iraq or Chaldeans, he felt compelled to travel to the war-torn country.

More recently, he decided to participate in the Emergency Field Hospital (EFH) mission in Northern Iraq outside of Mosul. He participated in a mission this past December and January, and he then flew back in April.  “As I write these notes about my trip,” said Dr. Burandt, “I am in the Plains of Nineveh where Jonah was asked by God to preach the gospel and initially refused. And we all know that didn’t go so well for Jonah, at first, so I figure it was better to heed God’s prompting rather than ignore it.”

The Nineveh Plains is an area where Christians primarily lived.  “Samaritan’s Purse is very aware of these displaced and targeted Christians in Northern Iraq along with other Christian groups and Muslims,” said Dr. Burandt.  “It appears that ISIS is attempting to wipe out the cultural heritage of Christians in Iraq.  We have heard reports of century old churches, artifacts/antiquities, schools including ancient Chaldean and Christian archaeological sites and buildings in Mosul that have been targeted and destroyed.”

Just before Christmas, Dr. Burandt received an email invitation followed by a phone call from Samaritan’s Purse (SP), a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“My faith is part of who I am, what I do and why I do it,” said Dr. Burandt.  “Serving with SP on medical-surgical missions such as this SP-DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) in Iraq allows me the opportunity to share my faith openly, pray with patients and look after all of their needs be they surgical, spiritual and emotional.”

Samaritan’s Purse responded to a request from agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) to build, supply and provide medical personnel for a trauma field hospital from January through June 2017 to care for the injured civilians and military. This also includes treating members of ISIS who were affected by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) offensive to liberate Mosul.

“I came here to serve and am serving under Good Samaritan’s Purse, our goal is to save lives and reduce suffering and that goes for everybody,” said Dr. Burandt. “What we found is that not all of the ISIS soldiers truly possess the ideology of ISIS soldiers. Many of them are fighting because they have no choice. Their wives or children may have been taken — kidnapped and ransomed. They are being told either fight for ISIS or lose your family. The boundaries have changed a bit for us and we’ve decided to treat all of those patients that come to us.”

Samaritan’s Purse built multiple tent hospitals working in cooperation with the World Health Organization, Iraqi government, Ministry of Health and Education, the UN and local Iraqi Security Forces (Iraqi army, Peshmerga, militias, police, etc.) to accomplish its goal of providing medical, surgical and spiritual aid in northern Iraq as all of the hospitals in eastern Mosul that were destroyed by ISIS or rendered unusable.

Dr. Burandt traveled to Iraq to assist Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response Team in northern Iraq as they care for the inured and dying patients resulting from the fight to free Mosul from ISIS. Since opening in January 2017, the emergency field hospital (EFH) has cared for more than 1200 patients and performed more than 500 operations to save the lives and reduce suffering for the people of Mosul and the surrounding region affected by the war against ISIS.

During such missions, most medical personnel deploy for 30 days at a time.

“We see acutely injured and dying patients transported from the front lines only miles away from our EFH during the ongoing military efforts to liberate eastern Mosul and more recently, we are seeing patients as a result of fighting in the more densely populated urban neighborhoods of western Mosul,” said Dr. Burandt.  “In addition, ISIS has left thousands of booby traps or improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in homes under carpets, in doorways, beneath boxes, food, coffee pots, and computers that kill and maim women and children even after ISIS has been driven out of a neighborhood.”

These hidden IED’s continue to terrorize Mosul residents along with ISIS snipers, suicide bombers, mortars and grenades dropped from drones.  It is clear that these horrific ISIS activities will continue to injure, maim and kill the people of Mosul for years to come; unfortunately requiring an ongoing and long term need for trauma and emergency services like Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital.

As a general surgeon, Dr. Burandt works alongside some of the most well-trained and dedicated emergency medicine ICU, anesthesia and ward doctors, orthopedic surgeons and a large cadre of highly-skilled nurses and other medical personnel caring for the acutely injured and dying patients in trauma-emergency rooms.

“These patients require life and limb saving stabilization from devastating injuries which often includes emergency surgery to stop bleeding, remove and/or repair severely injured organs such as a spleen, kidney, lung, heart, bowel along with treatment of blood vessels, bones, skin and soft tissues of the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremities,” he explained.

The emergency field hospital provides state-of-the-art surgical and medical care within two fully functional operating rooms, a four intensive care (ICU) beds with ventilators, and more than 50 ward hospital beds for post-operative care and recovery.   Unfortunately, many patients are too injured and weakened by their injuries and cannot be saved.  For those patients, the treatment goals change to comfort and palliative care providing pain medication, supportive care and most importantly a human presence and touch so they are not alone.  It is common to have both SP medical and non-medical personnel caring for the needs of dying patients by praying with them, singing to them and gently reassuring them they will be comfortable and are not alone.  “Some of the most important and powerful care we render is for our dying patients,” said Dr. Burandt.

During his first trip to Iraq, Dr. Burandt saw a steady flow of patients requiring surgical and acute and emergency hospital care all hours of the day and night.  The majority of patients in early January were women and children who were often trying to escape the battle for Mosul.  They were targeted deliberately by ISIS who since August 2014 had infiltrated and terrorized their neighborhoods, schools and homes.  A short time later, the medical team began seeing more military causalities.

“Given the war zone we are working in, Samaritan’s Purse has prioritized the safety and security of our own personnel and the EFH compound, using extraordinary measures to keep us safe as we care for the injured,” said Dr. Burandt.  “Through the careful planning, daily ongoing training precautions and ongoing coordination with military ISF, our SP medical staff has been able to concentrate on what it does best—caring for the wounded and dying, while our security people do what they do best — keeping us safe.”

Samaritan’s Purse deployed and employed as many as hundred or more people from the U.S. and Iraq to convert an open dirt field into a multi-acre hospital and living complex.  All infrastructure required three to four weeks to complete and then the initial team of medical personnel arrived to set up all of the equipment and supplies and open the hospital for patient care.

Doctors, surgeons, nurses, pastors, lab and X-ray techs, biomedical personnel and a number of administrative and support personnel will continue to rotate to and from the Emergency Field Hospital along with weekly shipments of supplies. Locally, Samaritan’s Purse has hired an Iraqi national to help support the hospital including services supplying lab, x-ray, blood bank, food, security, cleaning, and laundry among other things.

“Most recently, we have been working with local physicians and nurses from Mosul and surrounding areas who work with U.S. personnel side-by-side caring for patients,” he said.  “At any given time, as many as 150 people inhabit the EFH with personnel and supplies coming and going on a regular basis.”

For the past four years, Dr. Burandt has worked at Beaumont Hospital in Trenton as a general surgeon and helps train the next generation of general surgeons.  Since the summer of 2017, Dr. Burandt has been devoted to medical missions, including his recent deployments to Iraq and has participated and led an annual surgical mission trip to Honduras for the past 10 years.

As a general surgeon, he performs most all abdominal, gastrointestinal (appendix, small bowel, colon, stomach, etc.) and emergency surgeries in addition to breast, complex abdominal wall hernias and reconstruction, thyroid, parathyroid, skin and soft tissue operations, gynecology, GI breast oncology, tonsils, vascular access ports for chemotherapy, and urology-cystoscopy.  He performs laparoscopic and open surgery of the gallbladder, hernia repair and assists neurological surgeons with difficult access to the spinal cord and vertebral disc surgery.  He also performs both upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy where he looks inside the stomach and colon.

In his capacity as a mission and trauma surgeon, he also performs emergency surgeries of the abdomen, chest, heart, major blood vessels, extremities, amputations, or, as needed- orthopedic fixation/casting of fractured (broken) bones of the arms and legs and complex repairs of skin and soft tissue injuries to the trunk, extremities, and skin grafting.

“After 30 years of performing surgery, it is more clear to me than ever that many patients are not just suffering from pain and physical problems that can be fixed in an operating room, but also need someone willing to listen, hold their hand, come alongside them, and address the spiritual and emotional issues that challenge all of us,” said Dr. Burandt. “We at Samaritan’s Purse, aspire to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ here on earth doing God’s kingdom work for His glory rather than our own.”