Jan (Panariello) Mansley ’86 and Dr. Chris Cavagnaro ’95 were devoted to the same cause for years but didn’t know each other until they met in April on a medical mission trip to Haiti. The two traveled to Cavaillon, one of the poorest sections of the country, to provide medical care to children from April 26 to May 4, 2014. Almost 1,000 patients were treated during the short amount of time.
“It is extremely poor with no medical services or sanitation. We brought medications, antibiotics, and IVs, as well as basic surgical and trauma supplies,” said Mansley.
Long-time volunteers of NOVA Hope for Haiti, Inc.
, a 501c3 non-profit organization that has been providing week-long immediate care clinics in southwest Haiti since 2002, Mansley and Cavagnaro have donated their time, talent, and skills to the group for years but only recently met.
"My first medical relief mission to Haiti was immediately after the earthquake in January 2010 and I have been traveling with NOVA Hope for Haiti on medical missions ever since. It has always been an incredibly rewarding experience being able to supply such needed medical care to individuals who are desperate for assistance," said Cavagnaro. "Being able to share that experience with a fellow Lehigh graduate during this last mission, made the experience that much more fulfilling."
Cavagnaro, a pediatric emergency medicine physician who earned his Lehigh Bachelor of Arts degree in behavioral neuroscience, traveled with the NOVA Hope mission trip for the sixth time as head of pediatrics. He earned his medical degree from New York Medical College and is currently a pediatric emergency medicine physician at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx.
Mansley earned her Bachelor of Science degree in finance with a minor in computer science from Lehigh. She has volunteered as chairperson of fundraising for NOVA Hope since 2009 and was recently appointed executive director. She has helped raise more than $150,000 to transform a farm into a pediatric clinic and health and hygiene education center in Martineau, Haiti, where NOVA owns 12 acres of property.
Donations also purchase medical supplies and pay for a limited staff for a part-time clinic. The recent trip was the first NOVA Hope mission project that she personally experienced to give hands-on help to a medical team that included Cavagnaro. Volunteers had to pay their own expenses for the trip–roughly $1,000.
Besides well-visit examinations and treatments, the team also responded to other medical-related cases that came their way. Mansley traveled 25 miles on a dirt road in a truck to a hospital for a NOVA patient who needed an emergency appendectomy. She had to deliver $100, half of the cost of the surgery, so the procedure would be completed. The hospital paid for the other half.
Cavagnaro, who spent most of his time examining children, also walked 45 minutes to deliver formula, vitamins, and caloric supplements to a severely malnourished infant’s grandmother and taught her how to keep the baby eating. The child was six months old and only weighed eight pounds.*
“I think we take having immediate access to healthcare for granted. It is so rewarding to make a difference in the life of a child with such basic medical treatment,” said Mansley, who stayed in a hotel where she slept under mosquito nets because window screens are a luxury in Haiti.
Seeing the impact of treating these children firsthand, Mansley shared that many of them were dressed in their communion outfits for their appointment because their parents regard being seen by a doctor as a very special occasion.
*Editor's note: Cavagnaro reported on June 17 that the infant is currently thriving and doing well.