A Potomac Doctor Helps Deliver Twins 2000 Miles Away
The Washington Star, Thursday, February 16, 1978
By Mary Ann Kuhn
Dr. Albert A. Greenfield, an obstetrician, was about to retire for the night. He sat in his pajamas in a small room off his bedroom in Potomac, flipping through medical journal on pediatric and adolescent gynecology.
Two blocks away, his friend, Richard W. Hayman, was tuning the dials of his ham radio. He had just been talking to someone in Japan because he is planning a trip there in May.
More than 2000 miles away in the jungles of Guyana, a country in the northeast corner of South America, a woman two weeks overdue in her seventh pregnancy had been in labor more than 14 hours and was experiencing serious complications.
She couldn’t be flown to the nearest hospital, one hour away, because a storm and ground fog prevented planes from taking off at the small airstrip seven miles away. The field is illuminated only by kerosene lamps.
In the next few moments, the lives of the Maryland men and the Guyana woman became involved in an unusual medical trauma. By the time it was over, the Potomac men had played a major role in the woman’s delivery of identical twin girls, one weighing 6 pounds 4 ounces, the other 6 pounds 2 ounces.
At 10 o’clock Monday night, as Hayman was fiddling with the dials on his ham radio in his home 9908 Colebrook Ave., he picked up an emergency call.
“I heard a doctor on one of the stations with an urgent plea to be connected with an obstetrician,” said Hayman, who is vice president of Hayman Cash Register Co. “He had a woman in South America who was expecting twins. I responded because I felt I could contact an obstetrician.”
“I called Dr. Greenfield and I told him I had a medical mission in South America and a pregnant woman who needed medical advice,” he said in an interview yesterday. “I asked him if he would help out.”
For the next 45 minutes, Greenfield, 40, talk from the phone in his home at 2 Colebrook Court to the doctor in Guyana, giving him instructions on how to perform a Caesarean section on the woman. By using a special apparatus, Hayman was able to “patch” Greenfield’s telephone into his ham radio so the two doctors could carry on a two-way conversation.
While Greenfield talked, thousands of ham radio operators here and in other parts of the country tuned in and listened.
One man said that after listening to the instructions he personally thought he could perform the surgery, said Hayman, who has been a ham operator for 20 years. This colors are K3DML.
“The doctor in the jungle had made a diagnosis of twins by placing his hands on the woman’s abdomen,” said Greenfield.
“One of the twins was in a head down or vertex position and the other was in a breach or bottom down position.”
“I talked him through the entire operation,” said Greenfield, an obstetrician for the past 12 years. “I sure was nervous. I wanted to be sure I gave him every detail. I was oversimplifying things.
“After each detail, I’d say, ‘Do you follow me?’ and he’d say either ‘Yes, go on to the next step,’ or he’d say, ‘Could you repeat that.’”
By 11 PM Monday, Greenfield had finished giving instructions for the delivery as well as post-operative orders.
“That was a first for me,” said the doctor. “That was the longest distance consultation I ever had. It was a very novel and thrilling experience.
“We were on pins and needles to hear from the doctor in Guyana.”
“Al (Dr. Greenfield) expressed doubt to me personally whether any of them – the mother and twins – would survive,” said Hayman.
On Tuesday night, almost 24 hours later, Hayman and Greenfield called the doctor to find out the results of the operation. Because he was out on another medical emergency, the two Potomac men talk to a woman ham operator there who told them the operation had been successful. She also told them that the facility where the operation took place was called Mission Village in Northwest Guyana. It has a medical clinic, an orphanage and an agricultural project, where most of the people are US volunteers. She identified the man who performed the Caesarean as Dr. Larry Schacht.
“The operation was very successful, thanks to your help,” the woman operator said in a tape recording of the radio conversation which Hayman made.
“This is Dr. Greenfield,” said the doctor. “How is the mother?”
“The mother is doing fine,” said the woman. “She lost about two pints of blood and she is a little weak, but doing very well. And the babies are extremely healthy.”
“Have the babies’ lungs been listened to and if so are they clean?” asked Greenfield.
“Were there any medical problems during the actual procedure?” asked Greenfield.
“The procedure went very well thanks to your clear explanation and outlining of the procedures. It went very well. Everybody just followed your blueprint and everything went just fine.”
“This is Dr. Greenfield again. I forgot what I was going to say…”
Temple Radio Makes Friends Worldwide
The Sun Reporter, Thursday, February 23, 1978
Peoples Temple Takes To The Air
Rev. Jim Jones, at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana, South America, has initiated a remarkable new project using the temple’s ham radio. In just the last few weeks, Rev. Jones and a crew of experienced radio operators have made more than 2000 contacts of friendship and goodwill, to ham radio operators throughout the United States and in other countries.
The purpose of the contacts is to strengthen friendly ties between the United States and Guyana and support Carter’s Administration in furnishing needed economic assistance to this newly emerged nation, which is a leader in the Caribbean area of the hemisphere.
Jones has spearheaded this new effort with great energy and persistence. “Radio operators can make wonderful ambassadors,” he notes, and “the response has been amazing.” The temple has been deeply gratified to find a widespread understanding of the need for nonintervention, mutual coexistence, an aide to America’s neighbors to the south.
The agricultural project was begun four years ago, for the joint purpose of providing a wholesome alternative lifestyle for troubled young persons and to produce food and agricultural technology that can help solve world food problems. The radio is being used extensively as an extension of these humanitarian efforts. Many times the temple has been able to relay requests for medical assistance and other needed help.
One situation involving a child in a neighboring country who was critically ill and needed a medication that could not be obtained there. Rev. Jones had hundreds of contacts made over the radio, over an area ranging thousands of miles, until the rare medication could be located.
Another remarkable set of contacts involve the delivery of a baby in Jonestown by the doctor there. The baby was a breech birth, as the mother was hemorrhaging. Eleven doctors were called in for consultation over the radio. The medical complications were handled in an expert matter, and both mother and child are doing very well.
Copies of radio identification numbers the temple has contacted from its Guyanese station are being forwarded to President Carter and many US congressional representatives. The temple is proud to do its part in furthering goodwill for the United States in this part of the world. It has made known its support for the Guyanese policy of nonalignment.
San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, February 18, 1978
Dr. Albert Greenfield helped deliver twins by Caesarean section this week, although the patient was more than 2000 miles away in a village in the jungles of Guyana.
Greenfield, an obstetrician, was at home in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, on Monday night when a neighbor, who is a ham radio operator, said a doctor at the Mission Village clinic in Guyana needed help because a storm prevented the woman from being flown to a hospital. Two doctors began the long-distance consultation. Greenfield said the next day he was told the mother and babies were doing well.
Ham Operator Helps OB/GYN Consult With Physician In Jungle On Emergency C-Section
By Mike Byrne
Associate Editor, OB/GYN News
Potomac, Md. – if you saw it in the movie you probably wouldn’t believe it…
An OB/GYN, around 40, in a comfortable suburban of Washington is catching up on his reading before bed. The phone rings. It’s a neighbor, a ham radio operator, who says there is a physician in a stormy South American jungle calling for help.
A woman has been in labor more than 14 hours and has made no progress. She’s two weeks overdue and she’s having twins, one breech and the other vertex. There is only ether for anesthesia; there are no x-ray, no blood bank facilities, and no operating room, just a suturing table in an emergency room area in a 20-bed dispensary. It’s in a remote area of northwestern Guyana, not far from the Venezuelan border.
The physician in the jungle sounds young, sounds American. He has very limited general surgical experience and is asking such questions as “Which baby is removed first?”
His facility was not designed for any major surgical procedure. Ground fog means there is no chance for an air evacuation.
The OB/GYN is incredulous. Is this a dream? Is it a gag? But he begins painstakingly to describe how to do a Caesarean section, from step one: how to put the woman on the table. In South America, the physician takes notes. Ham operators around the world listen in. Some, not knowing of the drama, try to break in.
“Could you repeat that?” implores the young physician. Then the atmosphere crackles with the transmission. “Could you repeat that?” he asks again. It continues like this for maybe 45 minutes. Finally, the physician in the jungle signs off. He performs the surgery in the mother and twins recover uneventfully.
Hollywood isn’t buying stuff like that anymore. Who would believe it?
Dr. Albert A. Greenfield would. It happened to him at his home in Potomac, Maryland.
Even Dr. Greenfield, a physician in a solo OB/GYN practice in Gaithersburg, Maryland, admitted in an interview with OB/GYN News that at all as the quality of “one of those old Humphrey Bogart-World War II movies.”
“The real hero of this story is Dr. Larry Schacht,” who performed the operation. He had virtually nothing to work with, Dr. Greenfield said.
Apparently Dr. Schacht, whom Dr. Greenfield believes as a family physician, is working with a group of American volunteers in a place called Jonestown in the Northwest district of Guyana (formerly British Guiana). Americans there are teaching the Guyanans [Guyanese] how to grow citrus crops, Dr. Greenfield said.
“Dr. Schacht was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-it-you-don’t situation,” he continued.
The woman, in her seventh pregnancy, was at 42 weeks gestation and in potential danger of uterine rupture, which could have been fatal because there were no blood bank facilities. Any attempt at vaginal delivery would have compromised the twin fetuses, which Dr. Schacht had diagnosed on clinical grounds alone because the x-ray machine was broken, Dr. Greenfield said.
There was no lab to speak of. “At best he could get a complete blood cell count and maybe a blood type. All he had was open drop ether, which of course nobody uses anymore,” Dr. Greenfield said.
Under normal weather conditions the woman would have been flown to a hospital an hour away, but the small airstrip 7 miles from the dispensary was fogged in, and it was 1 AM (11 PM Washington time). The only landing lights are from barrels of kerosene alongside the runway.
After talking with Dr. Schacht, Dr. Greenfield said he could not sleep for several hours worrying about what was happening to “my patients” 2500 miles away. The next day he and his neighbor, Richard Hayman, radio Guyana and learned that both mother and the twins were doing well.
The babies were identical twin girls, weighing 3.2 and 3.0 kg. There were no complications after the operation, despite maternal blood loss of around 1000 cc. Dr. Schacht intended to keep the mother and babies in the dispensary for 10 days, not because of any problems but because he thought the mother might not return from her village for post operative care.
Dr. Greenfield said he was able to talk with Dr. Schacht from his home because Mr. Hayman, a ham operator for 20 years, and a device that could patch the telephone call into the radio.
Dr. Greenfield, a clinical instructor of OB/GYN at George Washington University Medical Center, said he described the Caesarean section technique step-by-step, “like a textbook or like talking to a medical student.
“Nothing like this ever happened to me before,” he said. “The longest telephone call I never had was from here to Chicago.”
[Editor’s note: The following letters include numerous deletions made in Serial 1127 by the FBI. The names are repeatedly released in the news coverage which these letters discuss. The deleted names which are known to the editor are included in red type.]
155 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
July 24, 1978
[Name and address deleted]
Dr. Albert Greenfield
2 Colebrook Court
Potomac, MD 20854
Dear Dr. [Greenfield]:
You can imagine with what pride we received the news of your helping our son, Dr. Larry Schacht of Guyana, S.A., deliver twins by Caesarean section, with your detailed help on the ham radio. Thanks to the combination of the opportune call from your friend, Mr. [Hayman] and your knowledge, all went well for our son, who is dedicated to live as a missionary doctor where medical care is so desperately needed. He writes us how very happy he is with his work.
We would like to thank you both by inviting you to visit us in New York. We live here now, enjoying the cultural scene, having moved up from Houston, Texas. We would like to entertain you by getting tickets to some Broadway theater and showing you around the city. You would be a welcome guest in our apartment, which is centrally located and it would be a great privilege to meet you.
I just noticed that The Washington Star article is dated February 16, 1978, but news travels slowly from our son, whose only excuse is that he is very busy and writes seldom.
Again, our deepest appreciation for your humanism.
/s/ Mr. and Mrs. Ezra L. Schacht
Mr. and Mrs. Ezra L. Schacht
[Name and address deleted]
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dear Mr. [name deleted],
I was present in the San Francisco-based Peoples Temple church when we received radio transmission from Dr. Larry Schacht about the Caesarean operation he had just performed, and the mother & twins who are alive today because you answered a cry for help. Larry was exhausted from the tension of the situation but so exhilarated… He spoke rapidly… His gratitude to you and Dr. [Greenfield] was so great, we felt it being transmitted to us more than we could hear it over the radio. And I am writing to you in the deepest appreciation for your commitment to humanity & helping to make this possible. I am a registered nurse working in a large hospital in the Bay Area, I understand what it took for Dr. [Greenfield] to transmit such intricate details over the radio. I shudder to think what might have happened to the mother & her unborn babies if you have not been alerted to the situation & did everything you could to help out.
Enclosed is an article describing just one facet of the work Peoples Temple does. The Medical Programs took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, & several other cities in California and included visitation, transportation & free meals to the sick & elderly, sickle cell anemia screening clinics, health counseling & education. The services were provided free to the large membership of Peoples Temple & also to the neighboring community & were financed solely by bake sales, rummage sales & private donations. I had never in my life known of a far reaching program like this or a man like the pastor of Peoples Temple, Rev. Jim Jones, whose energy & example set the pace for some of the most consistent & active community & human service programs ever to be realized.
While working with Pastor Jones & Peoples Temple members, I witnessed & became involved with many amazing incidents when a person with chronic and even terminal illness found love and concern in the church and this seemed to provide the impetus of hope which brought about health restoration. This church has been alert to the needs of people for over 20 years, countless numbers of people have found it an oasis of caring in a sometimes in different world.
The work accomplished in the United States has given us the basis to embark on the vast endeavor of developing an agricultural nation in the underdeveloped jungle of the North West District of Guyana, South America. This project has been in operation for several years now and has become an ideal community which provides for all the needs of the 1500 membership of Peoples Temple now living in the mission village, also employment, food, & homes and medical care for the outlying area. Agricultural research is being done to determine the most productive methods of crop planting. In the medical field, Larry Schacht MD. is our medical director[.] He is assisted by a family and pediatric nurse practitioners, RN’s, LVN’s, & aides specially trained in various areas of nursing, a respiratory therapist, pharmacist, technicians in x-ray, lab, dentistry, also an educational program is being started to train the Guyanese people in health care and already a vast outreach program is underway.
I hope you will feel free to keep in touch with us. And once again Mr. [name deleted], thank you.
[Name and address deleted]
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dear [name deleted],
I just received a letter from my sister who is a nurse in the mission village clinic in Guyana. In all her nursing career she never experienced anything like assisting with the Caesarean section operation. She says that they were extremely concerned about the mother & wanted to fly her to the capital but poor weather conditions never changed. Finally they determined the operation would have to be done by them in. They lacked experience & equipment. Frankly, Mr. [name deleted], they were scared. They felt a lot better when you answered the radio call for help & acted so promptly to get Dr. [Greenfield]. Without this help, well, it’s just a good thing you responded.
My sister says they consider you a friend and hope they will be able to talk to you again.
Thanks again, Mr. [name deleted].
Dear Mr. [Hayman],
We at People’s Temple here in the United States have just now started to receive letters from some of the medical team members who assisted with the operation.
There is hardly a way to describe their gratitude to you and Dr. [Greenfield] for helping to save three lives. It is an amazing event. A successful Caesarean operation performed in a jungle clinic by instruction over shortwave radio. Because you answered the call for help and acted so responsibly the Mother and twin baby girls are alive today. Thank you Mr. [Hayman].
Temple’s medical staff begin physical exams
Ukiah Daily Journal, Ukiah, California, Wednesday, May 28, 1975
The Peoples Temple team of medical personnel, whose members are in various stages of training and who work in hospitals and care facilities in the community, are giving routine physical examinations in a new office in Redwood Valley.
The services provided free of charge to the many hundreds of members in People’s Temple, who are then referred to local doctors if health problems are discovered.
“We do not make any sort of diagnosis if we find that someone has health troubles,” said Larry Schacht, a four-year [lines cut off] them which local doctor they prefer, and we encourage them to make an appointment and to tell the doctor to call us if he so desires.”
The Temple medical staff is interested in finding particular health patterns so that the members can take steps through their personal doctors to head off serious health afflictions by preventative therapy. Members are advised to see their doctor at least once a year, and preferably semiannually for seniors.
“Our pastor, Jim Jones, insists that all of our members get regular exams, with the church [lines cut off] highest regard for the outstanding medical community in this area, and we want all of our people to benefit from it.”