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!