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Record Storm Cuts Into Medical Mission For Univ. Of Md. Doctors

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A record-breaking storm cuts into a medical mission for a group of University of Maryland doctors and nurses.

The team was in Fiji trying to save lives when Cyclone Winston struck the region last week.

Gigi Barnett has more on their miraculous story.

Some members of the medical team just arrived back to Baltimore early Thursday morning. Before Cyclone Winston hit they were able to do some good, but what's left in their memories now is a devastated island.

A hotel is where a team of University of Maryland doctors and nurses rode out Cyclone Winston.

They were on a medical mission in Fiji saving lives when they learned that they were right in the path of a record-breaking storm.

"For about 24 hours or so we stayed in the place, that, during a portion of that time, we'd watch water pouring from the roof, we'd watch, again, buildings being destroyed before our eyes out the windows," said Dr. Rodney Taylor, University of Maryland Medical Center.

The mission was in the works for months. The team traveled for hours by plane, boat and car to get to Fiji's second largest island.

The doctors and nurses--who specialize in ear, nose and throat surgeries--paid for the trip with their own cash.

They spent five days in a makeshift operating room, completing 15 surgeries and nearly 200 clinical visits.

The patients they met were unforgettable.

"A gentleman--his first name was Merica--he had a very large goiter. When we saw him preoperatively, it was something that... I mean, he had tears in his eyes. He said, 'I just want to be able to wear a necktie.' He was just incredibly happy," said Dr. Jeffrey Wolf, University of Maryland Medical Center.

But on their first day, when Cyclone Winston wouldn't let them leave, they banded together, just like they did in the operating room.

"Everybody's voice was heard to look out for each other," said Dr. Kristen Angster, University of Maryland Medical Center.

Surviving the cyclone and completing their mission came with big reward--a hearty thank you sang by patients.

"If you pan around the room, there were no less than eight of them, just  tears streaming down their face," Dr. Taylor said.

The medical team goes on a medical mission every year. They'd like to return to Fiji to help patients who they couldn't operate on--if they can raise enough money.

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