Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Jordy Cox Returns From Two-Week Medical Mission to Gaza with Doctors Without Borders
The email came in the middle of the night. 66 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Three thousand wounded, many in critical condition. The demand for medical care in Gaza far exceeded what the local health care system could provide.
Immediately following the violence of May 14, 2018, Médecins Sans Frontières (“Doctors Without Borders” in English) sent out a call for help in Gaza, a narrow strip of land in Israel, bordered by Egypt on the southwest and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. Jordy Cox, M.D., FACS, cardiothoracic surgeon at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, responded.
“I got an ‘okay’ from my partner, Dr. James Stringham, the other heart surgeon here,” he explains, “and Doctors Without Borders got an expedited visa for me. I was on the ground that Saturday. I flew into Tel Aviv and went overland into Gaza.”
As a fellowship-trained critical care surgeon, Dr. Cox is able to help care for patients with life-threatening injuries. Many of the injuries treated in Gaza were gunshot wounds and complications related to the drawn out triage process.
During the two weeks he spent in Gaza, Dr. Cox performed surgery from sunup to sundown. “We weren’t working at night because it was too dangerous,” he says. “There was quite a lot of shelling coming into Gaza. We would stop surgery at 7 p.m. when the sun went down and retreat back to our base and stay there until first light.”
“I’ve always volunteered in areas of conflict,” he says. “I’ve been working with Doctors Without Borders since 2003. This was my eighth or ninth mission with them.” Past trips include Congo, Haiti, Pakistan, Yemen, and a four-month stint in the Ivory Coast.
Though the work is daring and dangerous, Dr. Cox doesn’t view himself as a hero. He quickly acknowledges that it takes the cooperation of a community for him to have the opportunity to volunteer with Doctors Without Borders.
“I am just one small part of the organization,” he says. “I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have the support of Dr. Stringham and the people here in Salt Lake. I’m also grateful for the understanding of my patients. I called my patients to ensure they would be fine with undergoing surgery with Dr. Stringham. Even though they don’t go on the mission, they’re still participating and helping by making it possible for me to travel.”
The need for medical care in Gaza still remains. As a Doctors Without Borders representative said in a May 14 statement, “Most of the wounded will be condemned to suffer lifelong injuries.” You can donate to Médecins Sans Frontières, earmarking funds for Palestine, at http://www.msf.org/en/donate.
Tammy Clark, Director of Business Development
Salt Lake Regional Medical Center