Friday, August 31, 2007

All the way from the Marshall Islands

Here I am all the way in the Marshall Islands. I am actually on an Army base out here called Kwaljalein and staying at a BOQ. I didn't even know we had a base out here! This is the place they do a lot of missile testing as part of the Reagan Ballistic Missile Program. Here is a picture of sunrise here:
We have been extremely busy here. We flew in here on another C40 and we have done 5 medcaps since we have been here. My first madcap we took a small boat out to a remote Island where only 30 people live. Needless to say, we were likely the most exciting thing coming to the Island for the day, if not the month so everyone on the Island showed up. They were very appreciative of our service and sang to us at the end.

I saw some really interesting cases here on Ebeye Island. Here is a picture of a man’s hands with nodules all over them. This is Gout with tophi nodules which are extremely painful. I have never seen a case this bad before. I referred him off the island to see a rheumatologist.

This woman had a strange growth on her nose that was getting progressively worse over the past 5 years. We had no clue what it could be. I thought maybe Leprosy or a bad case of rosacea, but neither fit very well. I’ll show it to our Dermatologist when I get back to the ship.

The kids here are like the kids everywhere else; friendly, curious, and always smiling.

Well we are wrapping up our medical missions altogether. We have 2 more to do and then we are all done with medcaps. I will be able to help out with a few surgeries back on the ship. Once
back on the ship, we will have about a week or so before we pull back into Hawaii. I'll be flying home from Hawaii after a being away for 3.5 months. This trip has been a blast and thanks for everyone's support while I was gone. I'll try to update another blog once I get back on the ship in a few days!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Sleeping Lady from Kosrae

Well we traveled to the small island of Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is a small island with about 6-7 thousand people on the island. They are very simple people and are extremely friendly.

We arrived on a C40 which was really comfortable with extended legroom. It was basically a 737 with the military running it.

We did 4 medcap missions here and at every medcap they brought us local fruits and baskets. Here is a picture of one of the kids that I saw that had Impetigo, a skin infection on the face.

Here is a picture of how we were welcomed to Kosrae. They made flower hats for each of us

The mountains behind me are called the Sleeping Lady Mountains. I guess it looks like a woman laying down. It looks like it could be Madonna :)

Overall we had a good time here, but I was having cabin fever on the island since there isn't much to do. I went snorkeling once which was fun. The hotel that we stayed at had good food and beer which was welcomed after a medcap. We traveled to the Marshall Islands a few days ago and things are sweet here. We are actually staying on an Army base here that is top secret. More to come soon about the Marshall Island medcaps!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What did I get myself into?

Well I did have to tell this story since it was a pretty amazing story. On the 14th, I was the officer in charge of a medcap at the Ileg medical clinic in PNG. We took a 15 minute flight in by helo from the ship. We landed and set up shop and started cranking through patients. Things went fairly smooth with the only exception being our immunization area. We had way too many people show up and most on them were children. I had to basically stop immunizing adults and only immunize children. We ended up seeing over 675 patients and giving out thousands on immunizations. The clinic director and the people were extremely grateful. We even transported 15 patients by helo back to the ship for surgical screening and 7 of them had surgeries done for inguinal/umbilical repairs and lipoma removals.

Here is the amazing story though from yesterday’s medcap. Around 1100am I was asked if someone could go over to the next village to see 2 patents. One was a paralyzed from the waist down and obviously couldn’t walk. The other was a 70 year old man who was blind and had asthma. They had 4 wheel drive land cruisers and they said it was a quick drive down the road. I agreed and myself, the driver, and the village leader jumped in the land cruiser and took off. The drive was gorgeous with rolling hills and palm trees. The roads were gravel and the driver was telling me that this was a recent advancement and until a few months ago this area was practically impassible. The amazing part of the journey was that the roads led straight into small rivers. Our driver would just drive straight across the river. I asked him what happens when it rains and he said the water gets too high and they have to wait in order to drive across. The 2nd river we got to was long and much bigger than the first. We literally drove straight into the river which did have some current. The water was almost up to the door. Then then craziness began. We got stuck! Here I am in the middle of nowhere with 2 Papa New Guineans, in a land cruiser, stuck in the middle of a river. The other gentlemen got out and placed a rock under one of the tires. The driver then gunned it and we were back on our way. I did get a little scared just for a brief minute.

We kept driving and soon came to the village. We drive up and I get out to see the patients. The locals there were in amazement to see a tall white American in camouflage with a stethoscope and medicine coming to their village. The first patient I saw was the 20 year old who was a paraplegic. About a year ago another man was cutting down leaves out of a tall palm tree. He cut down a large branch and that branch ended up hitting this person in the head and likely broke his neck. He had been paralyzed ever since. The poor guy was very malnourished and he was laying down in a small wooden hut that was up on stilts. He was so weak that he couldn’t even lift his upper body up fully. He was complaining of neck pain and so I gave him lots of pain meds. He was very appreciative and I was touched by how friendly he was given his crappy situation. I said goodbye and went on to the next patient.

He was a 70year old blind man who was obviously having some difficulty breathing. It sounded like he had uncontrolled asthma and didn’t have any medication. I gave the meds to his son and explained how to use the meds. Hopefully the meds will help him breathe easier.

The whole experience was surreal to me. The biggest hurdle for these people was just getting around. The roads are horrible and only good 4 wheel SUVs can transit them. They have to walk everywhere. Obviously these 2 patients couldn’t exactly walk so I was really happy I had the opportunity to go out and help them. I just kept thinking about all the other people that weren’t able to make it to our medcap and I wished we had a better way to reach them. I guess we can’t help everyone, and we did help almost 700 people out at our camp so not all was lost. Maybe next time we could rent more drivers and assign them to go from village to village to bring sick people back to our medcaps. The people that can’t medically make it to our medcaps are likely the ones that need the most help.

I’m so glad I went out on this side mission and I know I got more out of it then those 2 patients. I just wish I would of brought my camera! Sorry for the LONG narrative here without pics, but I hope you enjoyed it. I will be leaving on more medcap missions off the ship to Kosrae in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands over the next 2 weeks. I will hopefully have internet access and be able to keep you up to date. Seeya! Peace out PNG!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

PNG Medcaps

Hello everyone. Sorry for the delay in getting information out, but it has been so busy here. So we have been floating out near Madang PNG and doing plenty of good things out here. I was down helping out with surgeries the first couple of days. Most of the surgeries were hernia repairs and lipoma removals. I was able to help out with the anesthesia. One of the CRNAs I was working with let me run a few of the cases myself…of coarse with some guidance though. It was fun, but really busy. I was able to get some good practice and experience.

So the medcaps here have seemed surreal. I feel like I was transported to a national geographic magazine. This is a pic of us landing in Joesephstal which was a 30 minute helo ride up into a very remote village in PNG. When we arrived there were people all around us and most of them had never seen outsiders before. They were super friendly and even though several of them carried machetes around, I always felt really safe.
The medcap missions went very well. We saw a large number of patients and they were very appreciative.

One patient in particular grabbed my attention. She was a 7 year old girl who developed a knee injury one month ago.

As you can see her knee is eroded away and she had trouble bending it now. Her father carried her for 5 hours by foot through the jungle terrain just to make it to our medcap site. At the time we didn’t know her diagnosis, but we wanted to get her help. We were able to arrange a helo flight to the Madang General Hospital.

Here is a pic of her being transported. Her father was extremely appreciative and I was really happy that we helped her out. Upon return to the ship I did some reading and found out she had Mycobacterium ulcerans. It is treated through surgery and IV meds so taking her to the hospital should help. The US is picking up the tab for her treatment costs which is great. She was a trooper through the whole process. Can you imagine first having a medical injury like this, seeing a bunch of new different strangers, and then having to get on the largest helicopter in the world and fly away from everything normal that she was accustomed to? Simply amazing! I hope she does well!

We saw lots of interesting skin diseases including a common fungal infection. Due to the moistness of the jungle and the abundance of this fungus in the soil, many people have this painless fungal disease. It isn’t dangerous at all, but they didn’t like the looks of it. This child has it all over his body and you can probably see it on his face. The call it Pupa and it is easier treated with creams and sometimes pills.

The translators we had were great. They were from Madang volunteering and their English was great. Overall it was a great mission. Here are some pics of us leaving. All of the children actually helped us carry chairs and boxes down to the launch site. It was a blast.

I was Officer in charge of the next medcap 2 days later and I have some pretty amazing stories from that. I’ll try to place them by tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by again!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Papa New Guinea (PNG)

Well we just pulled into PNG and we are near Madang city. We are going to be here over a week doing medcap missions. I am going out on the 14th to be the officer in charge of the medcap. The rest of the time I am going to be on the ship working with CRNAs and an anesthesiologist during the surgeries. I am really looking forward to getting some hands on experience. I’ll be sure to send pics ASAP. Take care!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Singapore Sling!

Well hello everyone! The last 3 days I have had the distinct pleasure of being in Singapore. Singapore is one of the nicest and cleanest places I have ever been. It felt like a very US like city except most of the people there are Asian or Indian. It was founded by the British a long time ago and still has a lot of similarities. One, everyone speaks English, which was a nice change of pace. Their subway system was amazing. 90 cents to pretty much go anywhere. One had to “mind the gap” too as you boarded.

Here are some pics of downtown Singapore. Also are some pics of me and a few friends. They had Hoegarden on tap which was excellent. The food was also incredible. I had sushi, Thai food, and Indian food there. Beats any Asian or Indian food that I have had in the US. They only problem with Singapore is the price of beer. One beer cost about 10 US dollars…crazy! I did buy a Singapore Sling at the world famous Raffles Hotel. It was 26 Singaporean dollars which was about $17. I have never spent that much on a drink before!

We had a blast in Singapore and yes I did a lot of shopping. Jen, don’t check the credit card statement, it will be all worth it when you get the package.

Now I am back on the dreaded ship. We are steaming away to our next destination. We should be there in a few days. I’ll update everyone when we get there. I will be going on 1-2 more Medcaps there and working a lot in the operating room. I’m really looking forward to the OR time. I did find out that I will be going out on another excursion to Micronesia for a week coming up soon. It won’t be as rough as the Philippines, but it will be a week out on land doing medical missions. Should be fun. Well I love you guys and thanks for stopping in again. I’ll update you more when we get to the next place.